“UNACCEPTABLE”: DPM Cooper says sickout had “significant” impact

“UNACCEPTABLE”: DPM Cooper says sickout had “significant” impact
Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and Aviation Chester Cooper said Monday’s sickout by Airport Authority workers caused many people to miss their flights and is likely to have a significant economic impact.

The sickout involved Bahamas Public Services Union members who want a conclusion to their industrial agreement and demand the government pay monies owed to them.

The government obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court Monday night which ruled that the workers must return to work.

Operations at the airport returned to some normalcy yesterday, officials said, although some people still reported sick.

Cooper guaranteed that the workers will “receive whatever they are legitimately entitled to receive” but expressed disappointment in their actions.

“There were some people who missed their flights,” he said.

“The Ministry of Tourism did all we could to help to communicate and to help to facilitate a few passengers who remained at the end of the night and we did so because it was the right thing to do. There are many of the passengers from Delta Airlines who missed their flights during peak period.

“They’ve been able to be rebooked so that process is being managed. Bahamasair (on Monday) ran mostly on time with only a small number of persons missing the flights and therefore the matter was delayed but generally systematic.

“The wait time perhaps increased by an hour during the peak period, as you saw the long lines but we were able to work through those lines systematically. During the morning period, it flowed but during the peak time between 10 and about 2 it did become unacceptable.”

He continued: “The economic impact as a result of yesterday was significant to some of our stakeholders who may have had to stand in the gap to facilitate some of the passengers who may have been stranded as a result of missing their flights etc.

“We have been working with the major hotels to make sure we smoothen the process for all of the people impacted. We’ve been talking with the airlines to ensure that the persons who missed their flights yesterday are properly facilitated today.

“The Airport  Authority has identified those people who missed their flights and promised them expedited processing today so in terms of customer service, we’re doing everything we can.

“The overall economic impact of yesterday’s action is perhaps a significant number given that many people missed flights, given that impact on the jurisdiction, our reputation, whether it discourages passengers from coming, that’s something we will have to see over a period of time. We haven’t determined that yet.

Cooper said the airport’s contingency plan worked in preventing a full-blown crisis even though it became difficult to function during the peak period.

“Let me just say that as a result of this action there are all losers,” he said.

“This is an issue of significance to the economy and to the tourism industry, our reputation as a country, our reputation as a tourism destination.

“The actions were not only illegal but also most unfortunate. It was disappointing that we were not able to achieve the type of compromise and patience from the union.

“Suffice to say we are moving forward. We have begun reopening dialogue and conversation with the president of the union and our objective is to restore a level of normalcy to the airport, to the operations, and to facilitate our tourists as well as the traveling Bahamian public in a normal way.”

Cooper noted that the United States Transportation Security Administration is currently auditing operations at the airport.

However, he said he does expect the sickout to significantly impact the TSA’s report, saying the officials understand the situation and offered assistance.