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Nassau, Bahamas - Three
local charities will benefit from the generosity of passengers and
employees at Lynden Pindling International Airport. The AIDS Foundation
of The Bahamas, Ranfurly Home for Children and Lupus Bahamas 242 all
recently received donations from the airport community.
Proceeds from NAD's first Health
Run/Walk held in April went to the AIDS Foundation. Nearly 100 airport
tenants, airline workers, NAD employees and friends turned out to get
fit and to support a worthy cause. "The health and wellbeing of our
employees is important and each year we dedicate time to educate our
staff. This year our activities concluded with the health walk and we
are pleased to donate the funds to an organization that has participated
in the health fair every year," said Stewart Steeves, President &
CEO at NAD...
An industrial accident at Lynden Pindling International Airport brought work to a halt shortly before noon at the facility's under-construction international arrivals terminal yesterday.
When The Nassau Guardian arrived on scene, Emergency Medical Services personnel were seen attending to two injured construction workers.
A short time later, the workers were carted away in two ambulances.
Up to press time, it was unclear exactly how the accident occurred.
A team of police officers assessing the scene, conducted several interviews with officials of the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD).
However, NAD officials remained tight-lipped on the scene, declining comment, as a crowd of onlookers, including airport staff and many construction workers, quickly gathered around the entrance to the international arrivals.
In a statement released by NAD yesterday afternoon, the company confirmed the injuries.
However, the full extent of their injuries was unknown, according to NAD's statement.
A witness at the scene, who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, displayed photographs taken from his cell phone of one of the victims.
His left leg appeared to have been severed from the knee down.
Police officers also took photographs of two cranes stationed at the building's entrance, although it was unclear if the cranes were involved in the incident.
NAD's CEO and President Stewart Steeves said safety is a priority for both the company and its general contractor, Ledcor Construction, as well as its Bahamian affiliate, Woslee Construction.
"Until today, we have had an excellent safety record on the stage two construction site with zero lost time accidents." said Steeves in NAD's statement.
He added, "We will be working closely with all contractors and sub-contractors involved to investigate and determine the cause of this unfortunate accident. We are keeping the injured workers and their families in our thoughts and prayers."
The second phase of the $409 million airport redevelopment project began back in March 2011, with selective demolition of the old U.S. Departures terminal.
Canceled flights, thousands of dollars in lost revenue and frustrated travelers could be the outlook for this upcoming Easter holiday weekend if executives of Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU) and the government do not come to an agreement on working conditions.
Captain Randy Butler, CEO at SkyBahamas, confirmed to Guardian Business that if airport workers take industrial action this weekend, his airline would lose a significant amount of money.
"If they tell us in advance then we may have to cancel those flights and all of those flights are full and going into the U.S. So I would lose a significant amount of money," according to Butler.
"This weekend, we lost thousands of dollars because you are talking about fuel, overtime and all of these things. We're talking about a lot of good will that we're losing with our customers because they for the most part do not understand or tend to appreciate what is going on with the air traffic controllers, because they don't see a reason for this happening."
He noted that SkyBahamas lost thousands of dollars just last weekend alone after air traffic controllers took industrial action and caused significant flight delays, something Butler is strongly advising against.
"It was not a good weekend for us, especially on Saturday. While we understand and sympathize with the Air Traffic Controllers, we ask them to find alternative means of trying to negotiate with the government," Butler said.
"If they take industrial action this weekend, it's going to be catastrophic because we are just hanging by threads. At this point, any kind of industrial action would put us in a bad position."
Captain Butler revealed to Guardian Business that he met with the union's president Roscoe Perpall and encouraged both parties to come to the table and talk before significant damage is done to the country's aviation industry.
He further noted that the aviation industry is going to need some attention, if it is going to grow.
"If we say we are going to build a bridge to the Family Islands, then we need to use these carriers to do it and even spending the money to give credit for airline seats on the companion fly free. On a big weekend like this, they (fellow air carriers) will cancel the flights if they know ahead of time," he added.
BATCU President Roscoe Perpall indicated that industrial action is still on the table.
"Right now, if the government refuses to meet with us, discuss and try to resolve the outstanding issue, we would have no other recourse than to demonstrate our displeasure," he shared.
He noted that those issues relate to an industrial agreement that expired in 2008, outstanding promotions and senior officers' salaries.
Both parties are expected to meet sometime this week.
An estimated $105 million has been awarded in construction contracts to Bahamian firms involved in the Lynden Pindling International Airport's (LPIA) redevelopment to date, as the final phase of the project nears completion, Guardian Business can confirm.
The Nassau Airport Development Company's (NAD) Chief Executive Officer and President Vernice Walkine noted that just last month there were 303 workers on-site, with 74 percent of the labor being Bahamian to date.
At the peak of the project's construction, Walkine said there were more than 350 workers on-site.
On Friday morning, Prime Minister Perry Christie, along with members of his Cabinet including Minster of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe toured LPIA's final phase.
Earlier this year, NAD officials told Guardian Business that millions of dollars have been injected into the local economy as a result of LPIA's third and final phase.
Since construction began in 2009 on LPIA's $409.5 million expansion, hundreds of construction workers have reportedly put in more than 107,000 man-hours on the site.
In June, Walkine confirmed to reporters that LPIA's final phase is expected to be completed ahead of schedule for November and on budget at $83.5 million.
At the time, she said there have been no work interruptions, and the terminal is really starting to "take shape".
"We believe that we will beat that date. I can't say by how much, but we will definitely beat that date. We're very happy that we have built in enough slack if you will, allowing weather delays if any, hurricanes and tropical storms and we believe that at the end of the day, we will beat that schedule. It's been going very well," she explained.
"We are really excited about it because I do believe that this particular terminal is going to be the best, the best in terms of not only its functionality, but its design and layout and the art which is going to be unique and representative of the country."
"We will be able in the next few months to present to the Bahamian public a terminal they can be proud of, and also travelers to non-U.S. destinations will have a seamless experience as well," she said.
Work began on the new domestic and international departures and domestic arrivals in October 2012.
The 112,000-square-foot facility will include four restaurants, nine shops, two bars and a lounge, which will greatly enhance the country's domestic tourism product.
In addition to focusing on maintaining the state-of-the-art facility, Walkine stressed NAD's focus on ensuring that all travelers have a great experience when passing in and out of the airport.
LPIA facilitates 32 airlines that service 29 international and 16 domestic destinations.
New automated passport control (APC) technology at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) may double passenger processing and avoid a "painful process" ahead of expected growth in the country's tourism sector.
Speaking with Guardian Business yesterday, President and CEO of Nassau Airport Development Company (NADC) Vernice Walkine said that the recent purchase of 20 APC self-serve kiosks was the next step in LPIA's modernization and would be able to accommodate the anticipated influx of visitors following Baha Mar's launch next year.
"In anticipation of a strong spring and strong summer next year with Baha Mar opening, we will have the incremental traffic caused by that opening. The [kiosks] put us in a position where we can accommodate the growth without it being a painful process.
"You're not adding a lot more passengers without growing the processing capacity. This allows us to almost double our processing capacity, so it cuts down on the time it takes quite dramatically," said Walkine.
Baha Mar is expected to bring some 2,200 rooms on stream with its slated late spring 2015 launch.
While many members of the country's hotel and tourism sectors have called for increased airlift into The Bahamas, the installation of the APC kiosks aims to address the ease of traveling.
Although Walkine would not provide a figure for NADC's investment in the new processing systems, which will service passengers departing LPIA's U.S. pre-clearance facility, she noted that they would be operational beginning in February 2015.
"It's something we're really excited about. We've been looking forward to having this installed for quite a while because it's in keeping with our goal of being a world-class airport.
"It will certainly modernize our passenger processing efforts at the airport. It has been proven to dramatically reduce the queue time and processing time for people going through pre-clearance facilities," stated Walkine.
The investment makes LPIA only the second airport in the region to implement the technology after Aruba International Airport.
Passengers eligible to use the APC kiosks include U.S. and Canadian citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and international travellers with Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) from 38 countries not requiring U.S. entry visas, including Australia, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Walkine additionally noted that the APC systems would not cause a reduction in customs staff, and could lead to additional jobs maintaining the new equipment.
Innovative Travel Solutions, a division of the Vancouver Airport Authority, designed the APC systems. The systems have been deployed to some of the world's busiest airports including New York's John F. Kennedy International and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.
LPIA processed 3.2 million visitors last year, and currently has the capacity to process approximately 5 million passengers annually.
Significant flight delays are being reported at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) as the radar undergoes major repairs.
With the radar down, staff at LPIA are relying on pilot reports from other airlines to guide the carriers into Nassau, according to Roscoe Perpall, president of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU). The process is less exact and takes more time, he explained, leading to delays for thousands of tourists.
The radar blackout is expected to last into Friday.
"The radar in Nassau is currently down and undergoing major repairs, it will be out for long periods of time during the daytime hours. The FAA has sent in a team of experts to assist in fixing the problem," Perpall said.
"There are two motors that need to be replaced. As a result of the radar being down, you can expect significant delays at the airport due to us having to use procedure control. There have already been significant delays in some cases for up to an hour and a half."
Officials at the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) also confirmed to Guardian Business that LPIA has been experiencing some delays as a result of the radar being out of service for maintenance purposes.
"We are experiencing some delays as a result of the radar being out of service for maintenance," Shonalee Johnson, NAD's communications manager revealed.
"According to the reports that we have been receiving, planes have been delayed on the runway as well as the aprons for up to an hour, and sometimes more than an hour. We are devising a plan to mitigate the impact of the delays by ground."
Captain Randy Butler, the CEO of SkyBahamas, said his airline experienced delays of up to two hours, "which is impacting business in a big way".
While he agrees the radar needs maintenance, Butler felt it could be done at a more efficient time so there is less disruption at LPIA. He suggested more work should be done in the nighttime.
"Usually, the airport goes quiet anytime after 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m., and there is still some light and if they were to do that, we would be much obliged," he told Guardian Business.
Meanwhile, the downed radar elevated the need to purchase new equipment. Perpall told Guardian Business that the airport is now accepting bids. He noted that anywhere from $15 million to $17 million has been earmarked for the radar out of the Inter-American Development Bank's (IDB) $50 million loan for works at the airport.
The BATCU chief added that a new radar was one of several issues that were addressed with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham when the union met with him less than a month ago.
During those meetings, Perpall said the prime minister committed to addressing some of those issues related to the union's current industrial agreement.
"He indicated to us that he is not prepared at this time to continue negotiations on the proposal that was being discussed, but he would honor those commitments out of the industrial agreement that we continue to operate under to date," said Perpall.
Another issue facing the BATCU is the outstanding funds owed to its members. However, Perpall told Guardian Business that this matter is being addressed.
"Some monies were owed to the controllers and were supposed to be paid at the end of April. Those funds were not paid out. We met with the union on Monday night to discuss our actions going forward," he added.
"We were assured that the funds will be paid out to them before the weekend. Right now, we are just awaiting those outstanding payments. I think it might be in the vicinity of $250,000."
Perpall said that while his union was not happy with the prime minister's attitude towards negotiations, the fight will continue to get an industrial agreement signed and registered.
"The prime minister said he wasn't prepared to do that at this time and would reconsider after the election campaign is over. We are hoping to achieve an amicable solution in some way, so we will continue to work with them," Perpall explained.
"We decided that we will continue to fight towards trying to get those items in the industrial agreement that have been outstanding resolved, and hopefully at the end of the day have the industrial agreement signed and registered."
After five years in office, a government and opposition are completed their constitutional mandates. On May 7, the Bahamian people will decide who they want to lead them for up to another five years.
Bahamians are excited. More than 172,000 people have registered to vote -- more than 20,000 than voted in 2007. The election is the main focus of the political parties; it is the main focus of the people; it is the main focus of the country.
The Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) is conducting industrial action. As previously reported, an agreement has yet to be reached between the union and the government on several outstanding issues, including health insurance, compensation and what the union has claimed is an illegal shift system.
The union must be sensible. In-depth industrial negotiations take time. It takes a government able to focus on the issues at hand to strike a deal. Clearly and obviously this will not, and cannot, happen at this time.
In a few weeks, a new government will be elected and it will have the time to sit with the customs and immigration union and come to an agreement. Why can't the union wait?
Union Vice President Sloane Smith said on Tuesday that the country's security could be at risk as "non-qualified" Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officers are manning some entry points in place of officers at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA). A few defence force officers have been placed at LPIA as union members have been conducting industrial action since last Thursday.
In response to the union's claims Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette told The Nassau Guardian that the immigration process at LPIA has gone without incident and the defence force officers stationed at the airport have been given sufficient training.
Symonette also said the immigration process went much smoother than expected over the Easter holiday weekend with the defence force officers in place. It is good that the government has a contingency plan in place for such action. But such action is not useful at this time.
Smith said the union would continue demonstrating until its issues are resolved. He added that members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) would soon meet to discuss the union's next move. The customs and immigration union falls under the TUC umbrella.
We hope the union sees the futility of its actions and waits for its new negotiating partner to be elected. The union only recently formed after its members broke away from the Bahamas Public Services Union. All it is doing is demonstrating its immaturity by angering the traveling public and inconveniencing our visitors by protesting at a time when the government is so preoccupied that it is not really listening.
Operations at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) and other ports of entry nationwide could come to a crawl over the holidays if Customs and Immigration officers make good on their threat not to work on Christmas and Boxing Day.The directive to withdraw labor came from the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU), the bargaining agent for the workers.
Union Executive Vice President Sloane Smith said Customs and Immigration officers are upset that employees who are scheduled to work on Christmas Day will not receive holiday pay.
"We're going to suggest to you that you are not to be forced to work on Sunday or Monday, against the law," Smith told a crowd of about 70 workers who gathered outside the Ministry of Labour yesterday.
"Legally we[are]advised that the government owes us another day or they need to pay the staff who's going to show up on Sunday. We have instructed our members[if]they are not paying you the way they should be paying you and they owe you a day, do not be out there on Sunday [or] Monday.
"That's dock, airport, harbor, Family Islands. . .and we will do the same thing throughout the length and breadth of this country,"he said.
Smith said workers who participated in the demonstration -- which began shortly before 9 a.m. -- were not withdrawing labor yesterday but were simply"going to work late".
When asked how operations at the airport were without the staff scheduled to work at LPIA yesterday morning, Smith said:"Everything is slowed down now. If the staff is here,[there is]nothing going on down there."
WhenThe Nassau Guardianvisited LPIA shortly after noon yesterday, arriving passengers said operations were running smoothly and they had no delays passing through Customs or Immigration sections.
The union is also agitating for Labour Minister Dion Foulkes to sign a strike vote certificate weeks after a strike vote was taken and negotiate their expired industrial agreement.
Until this is done, the BCIAWU will continue to protest all next week.
"We do not need the strike certificate to walk out if we have to. The law is clear. In pursuance of a trade dispute, walking out on the government employer is not seen as a strike because it's in continuance of a trade dispute.
"All we want them to do is honor what they are supposed to do, sign the document, give it to us [and] we'll sit down and talk," Smith said yesterday.
Attempts to reach Labour Minister Dion Foulkes were unsuccessful yesterday.
On Thursday, he told The Nassau Guardian that he was waiting on a report from a recent meeting that involved union executives and officials from the Department of Labour before he will determine whether to sign the document.
The officers have concerns relating to salaries and the shift system that is in place.
BCIAWU members were upset with the shift system implemented by the government in January 2010.
More than $12 million so far has been injected into the local economy as a result of Lynden Pindling International Airport's (LPIA) third and final phase, Guardian Business can confirm. In addition, since construction began on LPIA's $409 million expansion...
For the second time this month officials of the union that represents customs and immigration officers instructed their members to discontinue working yesterday, as a result of escalated concerns they claim management has failed to address.
On November 1, the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) instructed officers to demonstrate after members repeatedly complained about mold at the Customs Warehouse on John F. Kennedy Drive.
Although officers are no longer stationed in that building, union officials claimed yesterday that several other locations where customs officers are stationed have similar problems, including Arawak Cay.
"The dust levels are so bad out there we have had officers hospitalized with respiratory infections," said BCIAWU Trustee Alma Whyms.
"You have mold in some of the air and port stations and they say you have medical insurance. The insurance picks up 80 percent, but you pick up the other 20 percent and you're talking about thousands of dollars."
Trainee customs officer Tracy Pritchard added, "The dust at Arawak Cay is crazy and I was put in a position where I was hospitalized because I developed an infection in my lungs because of the dust. Luckily for me, I put in a letter and I was transferred, but many officers are out there dealing with those conditions every day and getting unhealthier every day."
Comptroller of Customs Glenn Gomez told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that he was aware of some of the claims made regarding the Arawak Cay station, but was awaiting an official report from engineers sent into the field last week to inspect for mold.
"I was also told by an officer who has worked out there that...occasionally they would see some stuff on the walls, but they had people in there and they found that it was dust coming inside when they opened the door," Gomez said.
"It sits there for a while and it just discolors that particular portion of paint. If there is mold, we will find out, but I don't know that there is."
That report is expected to be submitted sometime next week, Gomez said.
He added, "We have asked the operators out there to do different things. They sprayed water in a solution to keep the coral sand down, but they complain that the area gets mucky and say their cars are getting dirty.
"There is a chemical somewhat like asphalt but not quite that they sprayed on the coral sand so it gives it a topping, but then they complained that these little black balls which formed are kicking up on their cars. What can we do?"
Customs officer Coderro Edgecombe expressed another concern, claiming that customs officers stationed at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) have to walk unsupervised when their shifts end at midnight because the airport bus system stops running before that time.
"I don't think anyone wants their daughter to have to walk almost a mile from the LPIA terminal all the way to John F. Kennedy (Drive near LPIA), where they have the parking for us," Edgecombe said.
He was speaking to approximately 100 customs officers demonstrating in front of the Customs Department headquarters on Thompson Boulevard.
"You have to walk in the dark at midnight to get to your vehicle and there is no security," Edgecombe said.
Gomez explained that Nassau Airport Development Company's (NAD) bus service transports staff and civilians from the terminal to the parking lot and vice versa.
However, he pointed out that officers complained about traveling on NAD's bus service with individuals they have just searched and required to pay duty.
He added that officers have complained that NAD's bus service reportedly stops running before midnight, but advised officers to use the department's bus service which is made available at that time.
"They were instructed to find out which officers wanted to catch a ride to their vehicles," he said.
"Our bus would transfer them to where their vehicle is parked, but if you say 'no, I am not waiting for the bus because the bus waits until everyone is ready, and I want to go because I have to be somewhere' and you choose to jump in the airport's bus, there is nothing I can do."
He added, "We have a vehicle that is there to transport them and all they have to do is wait until the other people have been transported to their vehicles before being taken uptown. So that should not be an issue because that has been addressed."