By Samantha Magick
Fiji Airports has issued suspension notices to a number of air traffic controllers who have been on strike since March 18 over salary claims and working conditions.
The action by the air traffic controllers in taking ‘coordinated leave’ was declared illegal by the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations on March 20. Six days later a ‘return to work’ order was handed down. This afternoon the Arbitration Court dismissed the Fiji Public Service Association and controllers’ application to uplift that return to work order.
In a statement today, Fiji Airports claims a few more air traffic controllers have now returned to work. However this afternoon air traffic controllers still on strike began to receive letters stating they were suspended without pay, effective immediately.
Fiji Airports says it had no choice but to suspend the air traffic controllers, and that it will institute disciplinary inquiries against the workers.
The letters issued states that in being away from work, the air traffic controllers have conducted “disciplinary offences”.
Fiji Airports says international and domestic flights are continuing as scheduled, and skydive operations have recommenced from Nadi.
Earlier today the International Transport Workers’ Federation issued a statement of solidarity with the air traffic controllers.
The ITF appealed to the President to “exert his political influence and bring Fiji Airports to the negotiating table.” The ITF also expressed concern that Fiji Airports had invoked concerns about air safety, saying that it was “unacceptable for an aviation sector employer to scaremonger about safety in the contest of an industrial dispute.”