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Jamaican Air Traffic Control ‘Strike’ Cancels Flights

Jamaican air traffic control
Jamaican air traffic control | Image by Henry Romero / REUTERS

Air traffic controllers in Jamaica went on strike via a “sick-out” last week, causing roughly 30 cancellations at  Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, according to The Jamaica Star. Similar disruptions occurred at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport.

The Star reported controllers have been in dispute over salary with the Jamaican Ministry of Finance for three months. On Tuesday, workers at the International Airport of Sangster reportedly organized a “sick-out,” an organized period of unwarranted sick leave taken as a form of group protest, usually to avoid a formal strike.

Howard Greaves, director of air traffic management at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), said that service to both international airports would remain suspended as long as workers continued their protest.

Greaves issued a letter Thursday morning saying, “owing to limited staffing available to work at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Centre (KATCC), the JCAA was forced to suspend services.”

Information Minister Robert Morgan said on a local radio show there would be a meeting between the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Finance “very soon” to see how fast they can settle this situation.

After the interview, Morgan tweeted, “A lot of flights have been cancelled but we are trying our best to keep the skies open. We were to close at 10 am but management have been able to continue work. We are not sure how long this will last. The cost to the economy is now approaching billions.”

In addition, Minister Morgan offered the following numbers:

• Approximately 12,000 people were stuck in airports or unable to book flights.
• An estimated 30,000 visitors and residents were expected to fly out between Thursday and the weekend.
• Estimated losses: US $48 million (JMD 7.2 billion)

The air traffic controller strike mimics a previous work stoppage by workers at the National Water Commission (NWC). More than 500,000 people on the island were without water for some time, but that strike ended, and water services resumed.

The JCAA noted it was dedicated to efficient and safe industry applications and was hopeful that operations would continue as soon as possible.

Several hours after the strike was announced, Minister Morgan tweeted that services resumed to Jamaica’s international airports.

Morgan tweeted, “OFFICIAL: The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) wishes to advise the public that, as the dialogue progresses between the Authority and its key stakeholders, particularly the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association (JATCA), air traffic services are currently being restored.”

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