NEWS

Mani: Workers Could Face Dismissal

Air Terminal Services (ATS) workers, who walked off their jobs at the Nadi International Airport could face dismissal, the company chief executive officer Hare Mani said. About 60 workers abandoned
18 Dec 2017 11:20
Mani: Workers Could Face Dismissal
Air Terminal Services Staffs having lunch outside the company premises in Nadi on December 17,2017. PHOTO: KARALAINI TAVI.

Air Terminal Services (ATS) workers, who walked off their jobs at the Nadi International Airport could face dismissal, the company chief executive officer Hare Mani said.

About 60 workers abandoned their workstations at about midday on Saturday to attend what they claim was a shareholders meeting at Waimalika, close to the airport.

They returned three hours later but were stood down because they had left work without approval and affected services.

“The area, which was badly affected was catering, but we still have some staff working there. Luckily airlines like Air New Zealand, Korean Airlines…bring the meals from their countries and this includes for the return leg,” he said.

“When the employees returned to work, after abandoning their work stations at the time it was most critical to our service delivery,” Mr Mani said.

“They were stood down from their work because their actions were tantamount to gross misconduct.

“All 60 did not bother to arrange someone else to cover for them in their absence.

“Their action resulted in disruption to our services causing delays to our customers’ schedules, including delays to international flight departures.

“The solidarity shown and quick action taken among the airline industry together with dedicated and law abiding employees of ATS ensured that operations at the airport were maintained with minimum disruptions and delays.”

He said the employees were stood down, which meant that they were suspended in accordance with Article 26 of the ATS/ Federated Airlines Staff Association (FASA) agreement.

Plans to avoid disruption

To avoid further disruption Mr Mani said international airlines had been advised to engage their own ‘flying spanners’ to clear their outgoing flights from Nadi International Airport. This meant having engineers of their own with their flights.

ATS provides engineers to clear all international airlines leaving Fiji except for Fiji Airways which has its own engineers.

Such engineers are called ‘flying spanners’ and travel with their airline to countries that need such assistance.

As for check-in counters, baggage halls and other services, Mr Mani said the young staff and others who were not members of the Federated Airlines Staff Association (FASA) have been working together with management to minimise disruptions.

It was a strike: Mani

Workers argue that their act on Saturday was not a strike. However, Mr Mani and even the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate (Read more Page 8) said otherwise.

Mr Mani said: “The union had previously issued a 14-day strike notice that was meant to take effect on Monday, 25th December, 2017.

“On 16th December, 2017 the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usumate declared that the intended strike was unlawful.

“When the ‘stood down’ and “Show Cause” letters were issued to the employees who had abandoned their work stations, the general secretary for their union ordered employees not to accept the letters.

“ATS has since informed ATSET (Air Terminal Services Trust)  that they do not accept their explanations and told them that the employees concerned would have to answer individually to management.

“Since these workers were stood down more workers who were scheduled to start work later had not turned up to work and have joined the picket line outside the ATS compound.

“In accordance with the definition ‘Strike’ in Section 4 of the Employment Relations Act 2007 what the 60 workers initially did on Saturday and later soliciting other union members to either walk off their jobs or simply not turn up to work fits within the said description in the Act.

“This is most definitely a strike.

“Management has notified all employees that they reserved their right pursuant to Section 33 of the ERA that their decision to participate in this unlawful strike may result in summary dismissal.”

Meanwhile, FASA secretary Vilikesa Naulumatua said they were expecting a meeting with the Ministry of Labour today.

What ATS does

ATS employees, under Air Terminal Services Employees Trust, own 49 per cent shares in the company with the remaining shares belonging to Government through the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF). The company provides ground handling and inflight catering services.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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