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May 19, 2021

Civil Aviation Employees Walk Off the Job

It may not have been part of larger strike actions, but today, there was a spontaneous walkout at the Philip Goldson International Airport.  Employees there were incensed over management’s decision to place four members of the Civil Aviation Department on leave.  Other public officers, wearing their yellow shirts, also showed up to stand in solidarity with four men they say are being unjustly accused of sabotage.  News Five’s Duane Moody was on the scene and files this report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Just before midday today, a group of about twenty air traffic controllers and other employees attached to the Civil Aviation Department at the Philip Goldson International Airport walked off from work. The walkout was in support of four employees who were placed on administrative leave for an alleged act of sabotage after they arrived late to work last Saturday.


Dean Flowers

Dean Flowers, 1st Vice President, P.S.U.

“We received information that some members of the air traffic control crew – gentlemen working at the tower and the radar room as I understand it – are victims of what I would classify as victimization, witch-hunt and some serious allegations by the Director of Civil Aviation. The letters that have been shared with me by the gentlemen accuses them of sabotage, it accuses them of negligence and it accuses them of planning and colluding the sabotage of I don’t know, perhaps the landing of planes or I really don’t know.  I took the liberty to have a phone call with Mr. Carter and he said to me, as far as he is concerned, the actions of the four or five officers were carefully planned, that they colluded, they orchestrated this and that in his eyes, they are guilty of sabotage, negligence and I believe reckless behaviour or something to that effect.”


But P.S.U. Vice President Dean Flowers rejects this, saying that the men had genuinely experienced mechanical issues with their vehicles and it was not a silent protest or strike action taken by the employees.  Flowers says that the union has been acting responsibly and there was no need for participation from public officers who provide these kinds of essential services.


Dean Flowers

“I understand that there is now contemplation and I found this out after visiting the Ministry of Public Service this morning, that there is consultation happening there for the immediate suspension for a major misconduct of sabotage being levelled upon these gentlemen. We want to say categorically that where our essential services are concerned, this union has acted responsibly. We have spoken to every essential services department such as of course our health services department, the fire department and the civil aviation amongst others. And we have said to them that we believe we can resolve this matter without engaging them as yet. So I can categorically say that the tardiness that these gentlemen experienced as a result of mechanical failure had absolutely nothing to do with the current impasse that the Public Service Union is experiencing with the Government of Belize.”


But according to Flowers, it’s been thirty-seven days since G.O.B. was served with a notice of industrial action and the employees – if they choose to – are well within their right to strike.


Dean Flowers

“After twenty-one days, any member of this union was free to engage in industrial action and strike action. Not because of their own doing, but because of the Minister of Labour and the same irresponsible and negligible Labour Commissioner whose office we had to protest last year simply for her to do her job because they failed to respond to that letter adequately to convene a dispute tribunal to settle this dispute.”


The Public Service Union stands ready to take the matter to court.


Dean Flowers

“In addition to offering moral support to these officers, we will be offering them legal support as well because Mr. Carter will have to respond in the Supreme Court for the accusation of sabotage against these gentlemen. The sad part about all of this is that the people of Belize may very well be held on the hook for compensation if a court so decides to these gentlemen, whose reputation and good character is being questioned, put on the line and tarnished here today by the leadership of the civil aviation authority.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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