PHILIPSBURG–The ABVO union representing employees of Princess Juliana International Airport SXM is not happy with the Airport’s management and board for not renewing contracts of sixteen workers and suspending and dismissing fifteen permanent employees.
The union called its members to an urgent meeting on the Airport premises Tuesday morning to hear its members’ grievances. The dismissals and suspensions have to do with an investigation by airport management, which accuses some staff of stealing items from the stores in the airport while clean-up was taking place post-Hurricane Irma.
However, ABVO is not in agreement with the suspensions and dismissals, because police were not involved in the investigation. Workers were questioned by Airport management, who concluded on their own that some of the employees were guilty of theft.
Another issue that has the union’s attention is the unlawful non-extension of contract workers employed by the airport. Some were told verbally to stay home and not report to work while some received vague letters from management.
ABVO President Charlon Cathalina and member Urvin Sjen Liep Shi said the union is backing them all the way. They plan to meet with Airport management on Thursday. Liep Shi informed The Daily Herald that the Airport company has violated several clauses in the active collective labour agreement (CLA).
One worker passionately spoke about the Airport’s treatment of the workers, who came to work right after Hurricane Irma and started cleaning up and working despite their personal circumstances.
The union representatives also were confused about the Airport’s move, as its new Chief Operating Officer (COO) Michel Hyman was in the media just last month assuring the public and workers that no dismissals would take place because the Airport can pay salaries for a year and insurance pay-out would be forthcoming.
Hyman stated in a press release sent to this newspaper on September 30, “SXM Airport has full insurance coverage, including business interruption. All our structures and assets are fully insured. Based on our policy, our employees have nothing to fear about their jobs or their wages,”
Hyman said the airport had retained the renowned Willis Towers Watson as its claims advocate. “Neither do our creditors have anything to fear, because we have enough liquidity to service our debts for the next 18 months,” Hyman said at the time.
In a comment invited by this newspaper on Tuesday, Minister responsible for airport affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher said she had sought clarity from Airport holding board regarding some grievances expressed by some of the company’s employees.
She was apprised in brief on Tuesday and immediately sought additional factual information. She said she understood employees would meet with management at some point in time and she would be looking forward to a report after that meeting.
The Minister said that although management is in charge of Airport operations, she feels obliged to let employees know that she too is aware and has sought clarity. She hopes for amicable discussions.
The union took on the responsibility to represent workers who are not its members because of the special circumstances post-Hurricane Irma and Maria. ABVO hopes to have a clearer picture of the situation after the meeting this Thursday, but assured its members that if the meeting is not favourable to workers, the union will be willing to go all the way to protect its members’ rights.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70965-abvo-concerned-about-dismissals-at-airport