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Opinion, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Future Of Workers At Stake If They Don’t See Sense

EDITORIAL: Future Of  Workers At Stake If They Don’t See Sense
SODELPA candidate Linda Tabuya (centre with white T-shirt) with protesting ATS workers on December 18, 2017. Photo: Charles Chambers
December 19
15:10 2017

The employees of Air Terminal Services will end up being the biggest losers in this stand off the workers have with the management.

The workers seem to have a misconception of what their role is and seem to have the idea that as shareholders they have a bigger say in how the company is operating.

But while the workers are going around in circles, industry stakeholders are busy charting the way forward, with or without them.

The workers need to be very wary about the repercussions of their walk-out. Airports Fiji Limited and Fiji Airways and other international carriers have showed that the impact of the strike will have neglible effects on their operations.

This poorly thought out action by ATS staff and unionists advisers will force stakeholders to question whether their is a need for ATS to play such a big role in our aviation industry. Especially if the workers are not able to get their house in order.

If the workers had pulled this stunt in a private company, they would been looking at a very bleak Christmas with their newly unemployed status.

The Board Chair Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum makes a very important point about whether this action will force industry stakeholders to look elsewhere for services such as catering.

Airlines are not required by law to seek the service of ATS. There is nothing stopping Fiji Airways from outsourcing their catering to another company, a company which is more reliable, a company where bulk of the staff do not walk out from their jobs in the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon without any notice.

If this is a tactic to politicise the issue as the country heads into elections, this will fall flat on the face of these workers.

They have been ill-informed about what they can do and abandoning their posts is something they can surely not do. If the workers thought they could hold the aviation industry to ransom, it has backfired on them. Nothing is stopping Government from selling off their shares and if such tactics continue this just may be the option for them.

However, if we are to look at the catering department alone, if Fiji Airways finds another company to do the catering, ATS’s catering department will become redundant, the company will need to downsize and people will ultimately end up losing their jobs. Same applies if Fiji Airways decides to provide ground staff for other international airlines, where will it leave ATS staff?

It has been highly irresponsible for the workers to leave their work stations and  not arrange for anyone to cover for them or advise their immediate supervisors.

Being shareholders of the company does not only mean having a say in management issues. It also means being accountable. It means being responsible. Nobody is saying that the employees do not have a right to get their grievances addressed. They do. But this is not the way to do it. Especially when talks between the Employment Relations Ministry and the staff were ongoing.

There will no doubt be repercussions. The ball is in the court of the workers. Their future is at stake here.


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