All clear for takeoff: Arbitration court orders ATC’c back to work

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Fiji Public Service Association General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh speaks at the Air Terminal Services March in Nadi. Picture: Shayal Devi
Fiji Public Service Association General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh. Picture: FT FILE

GOOD news at last. The arbitration court has ordered all air traffic controllers involved in a dispute with Fiji Airports’ management to immediately return to work.

The 32 ATCs who were involved in the impasse have also said they met Fiji Airports executive chairman Faiz Khan yesterday and according to the ATCs spokesman Kolokesa Kini, “things were looking good”.

Chinese tour operators vented their frustration, saying tourists who had booked skydiving and scenic tours had demanded refunds after Fiji Airports grounded all skydiving, flying school and leisure aviation flights for the past 10 days because of the action by the ATCs.

THE arbitration court issued an order on Tuesday calling for the 32 air traffic controllers involved in an impasse with Fiji Airports to return to work.

The order issued by Justice Liyanage stated that the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) was to start negotiations with Fiji Airports if air traffic controllers were not included in the initial log of claims because of the fact that they took membership after the lodgement of the action by FPSA.

Mr Liyanage also ordered ATCs included in the initial log of claims should continue in the manner all parties agreed on the last mention date on March 15 this year.

The arbitration court ordered all employees engaged in the dispute to report to work and stated that the order was made under Section 191AD of the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act 4/2015.

Mr Liyanage also ordered FPSA and Fiji Airports to inform FPSA about the orders before 8pm on Tuesday.

FPSA general secretary Rajeshwar Singh said he had lodged a dispute in 2017 and it was a separate issue from the arbitration court orders issued on Tuesday.

“Our involvement began in 2016 when we filed a claim for all Fiji Airports (then Airports Fiji Ltd) staff who were on salaries of $9000 to $15,000 per annum to receive a 15 per cent pay increase and for those on salaries above $15,000 and more to receive an increment of 10 per cent,” he said.

“We were not involved in the dispute which began last week on Monday and I was very surprised when I received an order from the Industrial Relations Minister Parveen Kumar last week on Wednesday declaring the action taken by the ATCs an ‘unlawful strike’.”

Fiji Airports communications and public relations manager Christopher Chand said after the order was issued by Minister Kumar on March 20, FPSA had raised issues before the arbitration court.

“The arbitration court convened twice on March 26, 2019 and made orders for the controllers who remained on strike to forthwith return to work,” he said.

“The arbitration court further ordered FPSA to either start or continue negotiations with Fiji Airports on any log of claims.

“In compliance with both the orders of the minister and the arbitration court, our controllers must lawfully return to work.”