175 NMIA workers face redundancy as new management kicks in

Certain technical and professional services are centralised in Mexico

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 11, 2019

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President of the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA), Audley Deidrick says the new operator of the facility is doing everything it can to assist the 175 workers who have not been rehired following a redundancy exercise yesterday.

The gateway airport officially opened its doors under the new management — PAC Kingston Airport Limited (PACKAL) as of midnight yesterday. PACKAL is a subsidiary set up by the Mexican company Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAP) to manage the operations here. Last October, GAP signed a 25-year concession agreement with the Jamaican Government, for the privatisation of the NMIA.

The NMIA's entire staff of 300 were made redundant to allow the new concessionaires a clean slate to start on, but only 125 have been rehired.

Yesterday, Deidrick explained in a Jamaica Observer interview that the recruitment process for rehiring started some two to three months ago, and that there was full transparency among all stakeholders including the unions representing the workers.

“We spared no measure to ensure — that from the moment the privatisation process began — to keep staff fully abreast of the process from inception until this point was reached. The unions have been kept consistently at the table, so in all of these developments there have been full consultation, transparency and disclosure of information,” he sressed.

“The concession agreement provides that we would give them the full workforce from which they would select who they wish to carry in their employ, and as part of that would have made the full workforce redundant to give them a clean slate. So that is what took place today,” he explained.

Deidrick said the numbers have been reduced because the airport simply will not need the same number of personnel, based on GAP's operational model. He also outlined the reasons for the scaling down of staff: “They have certain services and technical and professional competencies that are centralsied in Mexico which they utulise across their chain of airports.”

Under this operational model, there will be extensive outsourcing of seven services including motor vehicle fleet maintenance, CCTV monitoring, janitorial, and landscaping services. The plan is to engage independent contractors to provide these services.

Deidrick emphasised that PACKAL is offering an array of options to those who have been left out, to help them to upskill their resumes, retool, and prepare to seek alternative employment including taking up some of these contract services for the new operators.

He said that the AAJ itself will need some 30 employees in its newly expanded role of monitoring the Sangster International Airport and NMIA concessions.

The CEO said this presents yet another opportunity for employment to some workers, and others are being assisted with alternative business counselling to set up their own outfits.
“Some of these outsourcing contracts that PACKAL will be offering, they have been put in a position where they can also vie for some of these contracts and in the event that they vie for the contract but are not competent they then can in turn work with the persons who win the contract,” he said.

St Patrice Ennis general secretary of the Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP), which represents some of the workers, confirmed that the unions have in fact been involved in the consultation process, and have maintained bargaining rights.
He said this means claims do not have to be redone, as the new operators in the consultation process, had offered voluntarily recognition of the unions.

“They have indicated that in their 13 other airports which they operate, unions are represented in all of them so they have no issue with continuing union representation – which is a rare thing in Jamaica. We don't have a lot of that experience,” he said.

Ennis informed that of the 300 workers, 30 are eligible for early retirement, and 22 are to be hired by the AAJ. He pointed out that this leaves many who won't find immediate employment.
“Obviously amongst their ranks there is anxiety...the vast majority of people would've preferred to have a job. For many they are still uncertain about their future as employment is hard to find. We don't have a robust economy, there isn't a lot of opportunity out there,” he said.

Opposition spokesman on transport, Mikael Phillips told the Business Observer that the redundancies were not unexpected, and that his only concern is support for the workers during the transition.

During the concession period, GAP will fully operate the NMIA and is responsible for, among other things, financing and completing the modernisation and expansion of the airport.


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