Air traffic controllers’ protest continues

By Samisoni Pareti

THREE days after many of the country’s air traffic control officers walked off their jobs, there is still no sign that the impasse is going to be resolved any time soon.

Officers we spoke to are reporting no progress in negotiations over pay and promotions with their employer, Fiji Airports Limited.

The impasse can only mean that the 5 staff that remained behind to man the three stations at the Nadi Air Traffic Management Centre, the Nadi Control Tower and the Nausori Control Tower have now worked for 72-hours non-stop.

It is not known how many hours longer can they last in their posts, and what implications, if any, this has on air navigation and air safety.

Fiji Airports Limited has still not responded to our questions. But a spokesperson for Fiji Airways says schedules for both its international and domestic services continued un-interrupted today.

“Fiji Airways and Fiji Link schedules from Nadi and Nausori airports are unaffected at present. Both airlines follow ATC procedures as laid out in the Fiji Aeronautical Information Publication,” the airline spokesperson added.

Islands Business understands that reliance on the aeronautical information publication is nothing new to Fiji Airways as its cockpit crew uses this in their flights to other Pacific destinations.

However, one of the air traffic controllers tell the magazine that contrary to the airline’s stance, air safety in their view, has been “seriously compromised.”

“We’re operating Nadi Airport in the same way as Labasa Airport,” said one of the officers. We look forward to an amicable solution with FAL, but they are not reaching out to us, the officer added.

In a normal 10 hour shift, a total of 19 air traffic control officers are usually rostered to work; 9 man the main Air Traffic Management Centre at Nadi Airport, seven look after the Nadi Airport control tower and three are on duty at the control tower in Nausori, near Suva.

Because of the protest, only two officers now look after the management centre, two more are at the control tower in Nadi while one sole officer mans Nausori control tower.