The Argyle International Airport in active discussions with the Public Service Union

The content originally appeared on: NBC SVG

The Argyle International Airport has assured the travelling public and all its stakeholders that it is in active discussions with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Public Service Union (PSU).

A release from the AIA says these discussions commenced in early 2020 when the Chairman of the AIA invited executive officers of the PSU to an inaugural meeting. At this meeting, the Board and Management made a pledge to the union executive officers to foster a good working relationship between both parties.

The AIA says, in the last quarter of 2020, the Union submitted a memorandum of understanding which was intended to be the precursor to an eventual collective agreement with the AIA. Internal discussions of, and revisions to, this document then immediately commenced. However, these were unfortunately curtailed given the COVID-19 pandemic which severely impacted operations at the AIA with international aircraft landings brought to a virtual halt. Despite the impact on prevailing revenue streams, the PSU was informed that a decision was taken that there would be no retrenchment of employees. The PSU expressed their appreciation and noted the adverse impact on revenue generation at the AIA.

The AIA said the PSU was also assured of the continuation of the collective agreement review process, which had been further hampered as a result of the event of the La Soufriere volcanic eruptions and the associated impact at the AIA. It said these circumstances were again communicated to the PSU asking that full discussion of these issues be rescheduled to the second half of 2021.

According to the AIA, internal unforeseen administrative disruptions occurred in the latter part of 2021 and so as to maintain the review process, an industrial relations consultant was engaged.

According to the release, healthy cordial relations continued throughout 2021 and 2022, with several correspondence between the Union and the AIA on employee related matters. During the period January to July, 2022, open communication was maintained with the AIA giving frequent written updates on the status of the collective agreement review.

More particularly, on 6th July, 2022, a letter dated 30th June, 2022 was received from the Union outlining certain issues. A response to the said letter dated 12th July, 2022 was sent to the PSU indicating that the issues highlighted in the letter of 30th June, 2022 touched and concerned matters outlined in the collective agreement and could be discussed during those negotiations. The AIA’s said its letter of 12th July, 2022 also detailed timelines for negotiating the agreement, with the final draft of the collective agreement from the AIA to be forwarded to the PSU by 18th August, 2022.

Subsequent thereto on 15th July, 2022 a meeting was convened at the request of the PSU on an employee related matter. At the conclusion of those discussions, the PSU raised issues which the AIA had previously indicated would be addressed in the collective agreement negotiations; there and then, for the first time, despite months of communication, the PSU verbally indicated that a new draft collective agreement would be submitted to the AIA by 18th July, 2022, which was so received. The review process of this new draft agreement commenced immediately.

By way of letter dated 28th July, 2022, the PSU was again reminded to provide an itemised list of issues as per the components of employment with which they expressed concern.  The AIA again met with the PSU on 2nd August, 2022 at which time the PSU was again reminded to formally respond to the AIA’s request of 28th July, 2022.  The PSU undertook to respond by 3rd August, 2022. The response was only received at the end of the day’s business on Friday 5th August, 2022 informally, by way of unsigned document without letterhead, much outside of the general style of communication of the PSU. Investigations into the allegations have accordingly commenced.

The AIA, despite having to review the new collective agreement in short order, has managed to maintain to as close as possible, the original date to meet with the PSU, which is tentatively slated for the end of August, 2022.

Despite unfortunate premature comments, the AIA intends to continue the process in good faith and trusts that this be allowed to come to fruition in the interest of all concerned.