27 Mar 2019

NZ air traffic controllers support Fiji colleagues in dispute

1:04 pm on 27 March 2019

New Zealand's Air Traffic Controllers say they will resist any call to replace colleagues in Fiji who are embroiled in an industrial dispute with Fiji Airports.

Air Niugini and Fiji Airways parked at Nadi International Airport in Fiji

Air Niugini and Fiji Airways parked at Nadi International Airport in Fiji Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The comes as a strike by more than 30 controllers, deemed illegal by Fiji's government, enters its 8th day, over disputed pay and employment conditions.

Fiji Airports, which manages both of the country's international airports, said on Friday some controllers had returned to work.

The Air Traffic Control Director of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association, Kelvin Vercoe, said they were extremely disappointed to see negotiations had broken down.

Mr Vercoe said the dispute will be having an impact on safety and reliability of the Air Traffic Control services provided in Fiji airspace

He urged Fiji Airports to take immediate action to listen and work with controllers to remedy the situation.

Air Traffic Controllers at both of Fiji's international airports are engaged in a dispute with their employer over unfair pay and working conditions. Contingency procedures have been put in place in the airspace and least one commercial operator has suspended flights into Fiji.

The Association noted that the Fijian aviation regulator, CAAF, Fiji Airways Limited and Fiji Link have announced there has been no disruptions to schedules, and that operations continue to be safe at both Nadi and Nausori Airports.

Mr Vercoe said that there appeared to be a deliberate obfuscation that operations were normal, which was not in line with information the association was receiving from our colleagues in Fiji.

He said it would be taking a significant toll on the Fijian Air Traffic Controllers as it was deemed an offence to take industrial action under Fiji employment law.

The New Zealand association supported the Fiji Public Service Association's call for an inquiry into the current situation.

'It would certainly be alarming if Fiji Airports Limited thinks it is ok to require pilots separate themselves in busy airspace, without any Air Traffic Control, rather than engage in further dialogue with our qualified and professional Fijian Air Traffic Control colleagues - we would prefer both parties to negotiate an acceptable compromise."

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