Feb 16, 2009 Letters
We, the members of the Guyana Association of Air Traffic Control Officers (GAATCO), avail ourselves of the opportunity to extend to His Excellency, President Jagdeo, our best wishes for a full and speedy recovery from his recent bout of illness, and trust that our promised meeting with him will occur at the earliest opportunity, particularly in the face of the intended dismissal (Monday, 16th February, 2009) of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority’s Director of Finance and Admin, Mr. Hardat Singh.
This presents a most serious twist in the whole employer/employee relationship within the GCAA, and we dare say employers and employees the country over.
The caption, the Air Traffic Controllers, Assistants and Technicians have recently been the recipients of a lot of press, some good, but mostly flak. I am constrained, therefore, to respond briefly to an Editorial published in the Kaieteur News of Friday, 6th February, 2009 and listed as a “Guest Editorial”.
I have conducted some research into editorials, and thus am able to say without fear of contradiction that an editorial reflects, or should reflect, the opinion of the editor or its publisher (Encarta Dictionary, 2008, Webster International Edition 2008). All facts, as we know, are opinions, but not all opinions are facts. With that in mind, therefore, I shall state that there are a number of facts in the editorial, but an overwhelming amount of opinions, coupled with some insinuations which need to be corrected.
We do not, have not, nor ever will, consider our employment as sinecure (paid job requiring little or no work: a job or position that provides a regular income, but requires little or no work). Air traffic controllers in Guyana, for the month of December 2008, handled a total of 3,820 aircraft movements that translate into approximately 123 movements per day.
I sincerely hope that the Guyana Chronicle will publish this letter, so that their viewers who looked at “In depth” (6th February) will understand that we do not, most assuredly not, only handle a Caribbean Airlines flight here, a Delta there and a LIAT or two in-between. Nay, we provide air traffic control (Aerodrome, Approach and Area), flight information and alerting service to any and all types, sizes and classes of aircraft operating anywhere over Guyana and its territorial waters.
In fact, the airspace goes from ground to infinity. While that amount of air traffic might seem to be small, one cannot properly understand the complexity in such an operation without going beyond the limited scope of this letter.
Suffice it to say that our airspace, comprising of Classes A, C and G airspace and with the crisscrossing of the local and international routes, the mix of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operation, the limited support staff (one controller in a facility most times), one functional en-route Navigational Aid, the VOR, presents quite a challenge to both pilots and controllers at times.
We are not graced with radar, short-term conflict alerts (STCA), flight progress
strip printers and other important aids to assist in making our work sinecure.
We do not believe that the employer possesses infinite financial resources, but, rather, know for a fact that the Government of Guyana (GOG), in 2000, borrowed US$30,000,000 to reform the Air Transport Sector. This worked out to, at that time, approximately G$4,800,000,000.
This money should have been used to replace all the equipment and to replace all the Navigational Aids, as these were considered to be obsolete (this was in 2000, imagine the status of the equipment now). To date, neither the equipment nor the Navigational Aids have been replaced. The Government’s lament about finding $660,000,000 now in 2009 (which incidentally had been given in 2007/8), is therefore not valid.
The GAATCO is an apolitical organisation owing allegiance to no interest group or political entity. We are concerned solely with the welfare of our members as it relates to aviation in particular.
The Union dues paid by a regular office assistant in Government employ, for example, is the same (fortunately or unfortunately) as that paid by the highest paid member of the Guyana Public Service Union, as they receive the same exact level of service and benefits; the GPSU does not discriminate. We have, over the years, received and continue to receive very good support from the GPSU, and have an excellent working relationship with its other members and have every confidence in its leadership.
GAATCO has been advocating for several years (since at least 1996) to have the outstanding issues addressed. In November of 2007, we made efforts to have a salary scale adjustment which had been outstanding since 2002 addressed. This was done in or about February of 2008.
Talks with Dr. Roger Luncheon commenced in November 2008, and broke off abruptly close to the Christmas period. It is written that those talks did “not end to their satisfaction.” But, as a matter of fact, the dialogue with the venerable doctor went very well indeed.
The “merry” band of Controllers had, in 1999, when their salaries had been in excess of three times that of the traditional public servants, gone on strike in support of their fellow members of the GPSU whose salaries were and still are too small.
In our very fair and unbiased view of the world, we note that the payout to the Joint Services (who justly deserve that and more) is an annual expenditure, while the monies allocated by GOG ($660,000,000.), which they had in spades, (read the above paragraphs about the IDB loan) is a one-off payment. The GCAA generated in scheduled international over flights alone, for the month of December 2008, in excess of US$92,000. Approximately how much revenue was generated by the Joint Services?
Our ability to scour the friendly skies is, as you should be well aware, because of our lack of a radar, which same decision is, of course, out of our hands.
We did not prevent ourselves from being made essential services.
We extend to any person or group in this society invitation to a live debate on public television, preferably Channel 11, so it will receive the same cover as the “In Depth” programme of Friday, 6th February, where, contrary to fact, we do not, have not and are not asking to be paid on par with our counterparts in the Caribbean. Trinidad, for example, pays a “Trainee Controller” US$1,200 per month, and their equivalent of a SATCO US$4,000. In Guyana, the reality is approximately US$160 and US$1,500 respectively. Those ATCOs who were desirous of leaving for greener pastures have left, and those who remain are simply asking to be paid the 10% increase that the traditional public servants are in receipt of, which we had continued to be in receipt of since becoming an Authority, which attempts are now being made to have cease.
We note, however, that when the sugar workers, represented by GAWU, engage in industrial action, there is none of the brouhaha that similar action by the ATCOs generate.
For 2008, GuySuCo, to quote the Guyana Chronicle of 7th February, “has been bedeviled by industrial action”, which same action we dare say led to the loss of European Markets, caused millions of dollars of sugar cane to spoil in the fields, and forced Guyana, the largest sugar producer in the Caribbean, to import sugar for local consumption. Did you hear or see any information that dismissal letters were sent to anyone? Were workers threatened? Did you hear about the “heads” being dealt with? We think not. Was the Guyana economy “held to ransom?” Was the country? When Government leaders in other democracies are picketed, or have footwear thrown at them by workers, are they fired? Our pickets were very positive, as the policemen who recorded them will inform you. They read, for example, “Welcome Home Mr. President”, “The Voice of Reason Has Returned”, “A President for the Working Class”, “Mr. President please intervene” etc.
The Laws of Guyana, natural justice and the constitution prevent our being legally dismissed for our overdue strike action.
GAATCO Executive Members
Mr. Trevor Daly,
Mr. Ronald Kissoon,
Mr. Courtney Frank,
Mr. Clifford van Doimen,
Mr. Mark Appiah
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