Court Rules in Favor of PJIAE on WICSU/PSU Industrial Actions

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Photos by Alain M. Duzant

 

Airport CEO wants to put action aside and mend fences with employees and unions

Simpson Bay, St. Maarten – The court ruled today in favor of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company (PJIAE N.V.). Airport CEO, Mr. Brian Mingo, says he wants to restart negotiations. This is after a recent industrial dispute at the Airport that left flights cancelled and hundreds of passengers stranded.

In summary, the court ruled that the strike was unlawful, and other actions could have taken place with less far-reaching consequences. Unless WICSU/PSU sends a notification in writing with two weeks’ notice, it is forbidden to start collective actions of which it can reasonably be foreseen that they will have a negative effect on the Airport. This prohibition is applicable for the duration of one (1) year, and if it is not abided by, a penalty of US$ 100.000,- per day is forfeited. WICSU/PSU is also ordered to pay the court costs.

The CEO wants to put the action aside and begin to immediately mend fences with the unions and employees, by urging a return to the table with the assistance of the government mediator to ensure parties come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

At the heart of the dispute is a claim by the PJIAE Air Traffic Controllers for a 3% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the years 2018 – 2020. Management says it can only afford to pay 1% at this time due to financial constraints and is asking for a deferment of the remaining 2% to a later date, when finances are healthier. In hard cash terms, the total value of the proposed 3% is approximately ANG 690,000.00 (for all PJIAE employees, not just WICSU/PSU members.) The Airport is proposing a first total payment of approximately ANG 230,000.00 as of January 2022, with the total balance of approximately ANG 460,000.00 later, with the condition that this payment is within the limitations of the National Ordinance, which is 12.5% reduction of the total employee compensation package.

The CEO said: “A combination of the devastation of Hurricane Irma followed by the COVID-19 crisis, which included lockdowns and closure of the Airport for up to five (5) months, ended up costing PJIAE N.V. more than ANG 100 million in expenditures to restore the business alone, exposing us to elements and challenges we were certainly not prepared for at that time. The aviation-based organization was left financially weak, but serious measures had to be taken, including the deferring of extra benefits to staff, amongst others,” announced Mr. Mingo.

“What our team was able to do with the support and agreement of the unions, was to keep all our employees on board, paying their basic salaries, and overtime. We also made a settlement in 2020 of more than ANG 3.4 million to employees, for open benefits from 2017, even while the business was hemorrhaging.

“The judge has spoken. Now all parties must reassemble with the mediator to conclude negotiations moving forward. It is crucial that we all work toward the long-term interest of the Airport, which can only be rebuilt successfully if we work together. This includes, the shareholder, all stakeholders, and especially the employees,” Mr. Mingo summarized.