Fiji tower controllers ‘not returning to work’

Fiji Public Service Association general secretary Rajeshwar Singh. Picture: FT FILE

AIR traffic controllers say they will not return to work until Fiji Airports agrees to come to the negotiation table to discuss pay grievances and operational issues.

This was the word from team leader and senior controller Kolokesa Kini during a press conference in Suva yesterday.

He travelled with two other senior ATCs to meet with Industrial Relations Minister Parveen Kumar yesterday — a meeting which did not eventuate.

The ATCs and Fiji Public Service Association said the meeting was called by Mr Kumar.

When questioned Mr Kumar chose not to answer except to say he had issued a statement on the issue.

“We are here today because we want to resolve this issue,” said Mr Kini.

He said the last pay increase they had received was five per cent in 2017 for 2016.

Mr Kini said the 33 ATCs were committed to return to work because they were concerned about air traffic safety but not before the company made a serious commitment to addressing their issues.

“The maximum continuous duty for any ATC is 10 hours.”

He claimed that for Nadi and Nausori International Airports, the controllers have been working continuously for more than 96 hours.

Mr Kini also claimed as the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji was aware of these regulations as it was part of their certification process.

“We have seen their comments on this issue and we are wondering what contingency procedures they are activating.

“As far as we are aware, it is the air navigation service provider — Fiji Airports — that activates the contingency procedure.”

FPSA general secretary Rajeshwar Singh said he was disappointed that the meeting with Mr Kumar did not eventuate.

“Last night (Thursday), the minister informed me he would hold a meeting between the parties — FAL and FPSA with ATC staff reps to resolve the impasse but he did not meet with us despite agreeing to move the meeting from 2pm to 3pm,” said Mr Singh.

He also said he was concerned about how a senior FAL staff member and a Labour officer from the Employment Ministry had gone around trying to deliver hard copies of a disciplinary letter to ATCs.

Fiji Airports communications and PR manager Christopher Chand said no such letters had been issued.

“We can categorically confirm that we have not sent any disciplinary letters. Any statement that claims that, is unfortunately irresponsible or incomplete.

“We have sent a letter to each controller advising them that the honourable Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations has declared the act of taking leave by controllers all at once, is an unlawful strike.”

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