Sick out shuts down TCI airport
Flights into and out of Turks and Caicos Islands are cancelled as firefighters take part in sick out action by civil servants that also affected other government departments.
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands, Friday March 25, 2011 – A sick out by civil servants paralyzed the Providenciales International Airport yesterday and prevented flights in and out of the Turks and Caicos Islands. And the government and tourism officials warn that the action could have devastating, far reaching consequences for the British Overseas Territory.
The Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority was forced to suspend operations into and out of the country as firefighters at the airport took part in the Civil Service Association (CSA)-sanctioned action.
While response to the CSA call was “patchy and caused minimal disruption to most areas of government”, according to a statement from the Government Press Office, the firefighters at Providenciales International Airport who were among those who chose to stay home delivered the hardest blow.
“As a consequence of the firefighters’ decision the airport had to be closed to all flights. This is an extremely serious matter. The firefighters’ action, at the request of the CSA leadership, has caused enormous inconvenience to the thousands of passengers scheduled to pass through the airport: not only tourists, but also those travelling for business, or medical reasons. Of particular concern is that the firefighters’ action has the potential to jeopardize the ability of the airport to deal with any aircraft that might have needed to land in an emergency,” the government statement said, describing the CSA’s decision to include that essential service in their action as “seriously misguided”.
“In addition to the impact on the airport’s ability to deal with an emergency, the airport closure will have a financial cost to many TCI businesses. It also has the potential to damage the TCI’s reputation as a top tourist destination.”
The TCI Tourist Board also expressed similar concern, saying that while it recognises and supports the right of civil servants to engage in industrial action, action that grounds flights at airports and causes international carriers to cancel their service to the islands could have adverse effects on the tourism industry.
“The inconvenience caused to our guests could shake their confidence in Brand TCI and prove counter-productive to the health and growth of tourism in our islands. Additionally, disruptions in the tourism sector cost the Tourist Board, our private sector partners and government significant sums to restore the destination’s image in the market place,” it said.
“The Tourist Board therefore urges caution from all involved and dialogue between the parties concerned to bring a speedy end to the current state of affairs for the sake of our tourism industry.”
Meantime, the government statement warned that the CSA’s actions may also cause difficulties for the very civil servants they represent since, as a consequence of some Ministry of Finance employees not showing up for work, the system used for wage and salary payments was not operational yesterday and payment of wages/could be delayed.
The CSA has made a list of 17 demands to the TCI Government, which relate mainly to proposals for changes to payroll and pension issues.
The government said it had advised the association that it was carefully reviewing the list and would provide a substantive response as soon as possible, noting that the demands raised complex issues that require time to address properly.
It said work on a detailed response was almost complete and a reply expected to be issued by the end of this week.
The government said it was therefore “disappointing that the CSA should have taken this premature step and encouraged such a damaging action by some public servants, rather than continue to work with the government to a mutually acceptable outcome”.
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