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No fuel at VC Bird Airport

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

No fuel at VC Bird Airport

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Airlines flying in and out of Antigua were advised today that no fuel would be available at the V.C. Bird International Airport until 11:00am on Monday as Chevron fuel attendants enter day-two of  industrial action.
The workers took sick-out action over what their representative, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), said was Chevron’s failure to reach agreement with them on payment of severance and other entitlements.
At issue are plans by the US-based energy company to sell its fuels marketing and aviation businesses in the English and French-speaking Caribbean to a French company.
In January the ABWU had warned that it would take industrial action if Chevron workers at the airport were not paid severance by February 1.
“I think this action is basically because the company continues to show some sort of defiance. They are more what I consider to be bullheaded. They are not talking to the workers and the union properly and we have made a recommendation long ago that the workers would prefer to be paid off rather than just going over,” ABWU General Secretary David Massiah said.
“Last week we were supposed to be meeting with the company at the (Labour) Minister’s office to deal with this particular issue and…the company did not show up. The union showed up, the Employer’s Federation showed up but no Chevron and we feel that the company continues to be disrespectful to the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union and workers and we think that these kinds of companies will have to be read the riot act when the time comes.”
President of the Airline Association at V.C. Bird International Bernard Ho said while the action has had a severe impact on airlines, there has been no cancellations thus far.
“We’ve been basically tankering fuel, in other words (when) the aircraft leaves the destination, instead of taking the minimum fuel or fuel required which would give you enough for holding and diversions, we are actually taking more than that,” he explained.
“It remains the same today as it did yesterday. The aviation superintendent has already called me to advise that his workers have called sick for today for the second day running. So there is no fuel or there will be no fuel available in Antigua today.”
Ho said while have been no outright cancellations due to the action, it is an expensive venture for the airlines.
Ho said Virgin Atlantic had to divert to St. Lucia for fuel before continuing to London Saturday, while other airlines had to divert to Guadeloupe, Santo Domingo, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.
In November last year, Chevron announced that it has agreed to sell its fuels marketing and aviation businesses in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, St Vincent, Guyana, St. Kitts, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize to Vitogaz, S.A., a wholly-owned subsidiary of RUBIS, an international downstream petroleum company based in France.
The company said that transactions are expected to close in full by the third quarter 2011 following receipt of required local regulatory and government approvals. 
Under the terms of the agreement, RUBIS will acquire a network of 174 service stations operating under the Texaco brand, an equity interest in an associated refinery operation, proprietary and joint-venture terminals and aviation facilities, and Chevron’s commercial and industrial fuels business. 
“This sale is in line with our ongoing effort to concentrate downstream resources and capital on strategic global assets,” said Mike Wirth, executive vice president, Downstream & Chemicals, Chevron.
“By restructuring our worldwide portfolio, we intend to reduce capital employed, deliver stronger returns and achieve more profitable growth.” 
Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide.