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#501493 - 02/25/15 11:57 AM Air Traffic Controllers Dispute; Both Sides Now
Marty Offline
Today, Air Traffic Controllers returned to work as normal at the Phillip Goldson International Airport. This is after a sick out on Saturday that immobilized operations at the country's only international airport for five hours. Since then, operations have been normalized and the controllers have met with the Civil Aviation Department bosses to air some grievances. We don't know what was said behind closed doors - but we do know that the most cogent list of grievances was circulated by COLA - which seemed to act as a sort of spokesperson for the group of 18 Air Traffic Controllers. Here's what COLA had to say and how the Director of Civil Aviation rebutted it:..

Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA
"Is that they have made it very clear to the management that one of the biggest problem that they have is a shortage of professional qualified controllers and what has frustrated the members of the control, the controllers, is that some of them have not been able to take their vacation adequately. Some of them have had to work for more than 12 hours, and in some extreme cases, 18 hours and yet have to return back in a morning shift after leaving work at 2 in the morning - that is pretty much frustrating. I can only as president of COLA relay after I have done my research, to relay what has been told to me and I could only understand their plight."

"There are other issues of salaries, of increments, that they have not received as yet and there are other issues of which I find this one to be very serious, is that there is a faulty radar system in the radar room, where the tracks sometimes disappear - that's very serious."

Lindsey Garbutt, Director of Civil Aviation
"The controllers stated categorically that they had nothing to do with the press release sent out by COLA and that that press release was erroneous and not factual. Secondly, they said very clearly that the decision not to come to work on Saturday was based on genuinely being sick. The coincident of all of them being sick at the same time and that it had nothing to do with anything that the department and the ministry is or is not doing."

Reporter
"Sir, however, at least you alluded to one of the things that has been pointed out in the release, which is the borrowing of headsets from Costa Rica. From the release, the situation with the number of workers, you have admitted that. May this be a case where you are simply trying to just set aside all the differences that exists and that the ATCs may in fact be disgruntled and lack motivation, because they don't feel that all their issues have been sufficiently dealt with. It's too much of a coincident for the entire ATCs, all of them to be sick on the busiest day, on a day when the Prime Minister was scheduled to come in."

Lindsey Garbutt, Director of Civil Aviation
"I don't know if that's a question or a comment. It sounds like a comment to me. I am not sure that I can add anything to what I have previously said."

And while Director Lindsey Garbutt rejected the COLA characterizations, he also acknowledged that many of them were legitimate - including equipment and staff shortages. Here's what he said about bringing the number of staff up from eighteen to 30 and the allegations implied therein- principally that the new staffers are not picking up the job as they should - and that this may be because they are political hires:..

Lindsey Garbutt, Director of Civil Aviation
"We were given 6 new controllers last year. We've been promise 6 new controller in the new fiscal year. Later this week or early next week, we are going through the proper lines of making sure we invite people to apply for those jobs, trying to bring our staff up to a compliment of 30. I think the very notion that there people were hired based on any political affiliation is ludicrous, absurd and totally false. These people went through a complete, comprehensive process. They were hired through the public service, they were not hired not either by the ministry or the department. I could hire 10 people with a doctorate degree tomorrow and it would still take them a year or more to become qualified air traffic controllers."

The staff and the management of the department meet again on Thursday.

Channel 7


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#501503 - 02/25/15 12:38 PM Re: Air Traffic Controllers Dispute; Both Sides Now [Re: Marty]
Mike Campbell Offline
This is a prime example of the shoddy reporting that many complain about. It is clear that the reporter has his own idea as to what happened and would not simply report what Garbutt reported. The controllers and Garbutt have said what they said and it is not the place of the reporter to alter that or place his personal opinion in the story in any way. We see this constantly in Belize especially in any story with political implications. I doubt that any of these reporters have ever had a course in Journalism.

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#501549 - 02/26/15 12:20 PM Re: Air Traffic Controllers Dispute; Both Sides Now [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Minister Heredia on P.G.I.A. Shutdown

It shook the tourism industry this past Saturday when air traffic controllers at the Phillip Goldson International Airport, called in sick and did not show up to work to land planes and prepare them for departure. The Civil Aviation Department with support from COCESNA and former air traffic controllers, were able to get flights up and running within five hours, but by then two international flights were rerouted and one canceled. The employees absented themselves from the job because they were dissatisfied with working conditions, faulty equipment and the lack of human resources which has forced them to work double shifts. The air traffic controllers returned to work on Tuesday morning, but Minister of Civil Aviation, Manuel Heredia says that the incident has hurt the country significantly.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Civil Aviation

“We didn’t know that there was a real issue because there was no bargaining, no negotiation with these employees and having spoken to them when a rumor appeared, they said that everything was fine except for other minor things that didn’t have to do with civil aviation. It is more promotions and so which have to go through the ministry of the public service. But I must say openly that it created a black-eye on Belize; the confidence with the airlines in the country and the airlines. This is not about a small group, this is not about a political party; this is about Belize – the bread and butter of the majority of people that have to do with this industry. So I see it irresponsible and negligent on the part of my employees. I’ve always had an open door with my employees telling them that if there are problems with my director or my C.E.O., they can always come to this minister and I will definitely listen. Of the fourteen flights, only United canceled their flights totally. All the other flights were here and everybody was almost transported to their destinations except, if I am not wrong, two persons that stayed. There were nineteen, the other seventeen managed to get on their airlines and go to their destinations. So we are very thankful for the cooperation of the COCESNA group and Mister Coye that works over there. He is always on hand and he is witness to say that he tried to call these people on their phones and nobody answered. Everybody reported sick – very strange. But nonetheless, there are dialogues with these people and we are hoping that everything could come back to normal.”

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Duane Moody

“Will these employees face any kind of disciplinary action?”

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“I am not saying that everything is fine, but I am saying that we will negotiate and we will investigate. But with me, I am not saying this one will be fired or the other, because I don’t know the circumstances. But what I am saying is that within my ministry, if there is negligence on the part of anyone, I have to deal with the issue. You cannot have people that are negligible in working with any institution and particularly my concern has always been the safety of the people, the safety of the passengers, the safety of the industry. And I have made it clear, when it comes to safety, there is not negotiation when it comes to safety.”

A meeting between the Civil Aviation Department and the air traffic controllers is scheduled for Thursday.

Channel 5


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#501590 - 02/27/15 12:16 PM Re: Air Traffic Controllers Dispute; Both Sides Now [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Civil Aviation Minister Iffy on Penalties For Air Traffic Controllers

Yesterday in San Pedro, Minister with responsibility for civil aviation Manuel Junior Heredia addressed the issue of the air controllers sick out on Saturday. It shut down the airport's operations for five hours - and raised many public questions about the state of the equipment in the air control tower. Heredia today told the media that no one complained to him - but he does have his own complaints:..

Hon. Manuel Junior Heredia
"These people should not have acted n that way. Probably they didn't get good advice, but we are hoping that this will not be repeated in the future and we are also working in additional support, which at this point I cannot reveal, when it happens you will know, but definitely from our own government department's we are looking into training other people. I have been very open. When I met with them before the Christmas holidays, I was very open, look, if you are not happy with what is happening over there and people are not listening to you, there is the minister who will entertain from the guy that sweep the area to the highest officer. There is no special for anyone. That is the way I have operated and that is the way I will continue to do so, but at the end of the day, if you do your investigation and you find out that there is mischief, then you have to deal with the issue. You cannot allow anyone..."

Geovannie Brackett, reporter
"The management said that they have not classified it as a sick out and that they are hearing the workers and nothing will be done to the workers, but from your ministerial point of view, are you still hoping that later on, you try to investigate and try to fire somebody?"

Hon. Manuel Junior Heredia
"I don't believe in firing. If people are doing their job well, fine. But if anybody, from any part of my department, I can find evidence, that there is negligence of that, most definitely I have to act upon that."

A follow up meeting to address issues between civil aviation department bosses and the air traffic controllers was held today.

As alluded to by Heredia - Government has a plan to train other government employees so that they can do the job if such an event occurs again. We gather that is more easily said than done, since the training is intensive, rigorous and specialized.

Channel 7


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