Jamaica’s Air Traffic Controllers Call In Sick

An Air Jamaica 737 landing
Aero Icarus, Flickr

Jamaica‘s airports only experienced a small hiccup this weekend as the country’s air traffic controllers staged a sick-out in protest over low wages and mismanagement of the civil aviation authority. The posts were quickly filled by supervisors and managers and there were no reports of flight safety being compromised.

A Jamaican court has since granted an injunction to the Ministry of Labour, ordering the ATCs back to work, though there has been no response from the union representing the protesting workers.

Flights appeared to be operating more or less on schedule, though there were reports from the capital, Kingston, of delays on inbound and outbound flights. There were no delays at Sangster International in Montego Bay, Jamaica’s busiest airport.

The union had said that the sick-out will affect traffic in Jamaica’s airspace over the coming days. However, with the abandoned posts having been taken over fairly quickly by management, the impact of the protest appears to be less than hoped for.

Celebrating May Day: Images Of Workers Around The World

May Day, Bolivia
Today is May Day, when the world celebrates the struggles and sacrifices of the common worker. Like this cheese seller in Tupiza, Bolivia, photographed by Gadling’s resident cheese expert Laurel Miller. After some hard hours making her product, this woman comes to the market hoping to sell it all before the day is through. She uses a plastic bag on a stick to keep the flies away.

A range of unions and workers’ parties declared May Day a workers’ holiday in 1898. The date commemorated a three-day general strike in the U.S. that started on May 1, 1886, during which workers demanded an eight-hour day. Police fired into a protest by employees at the McCormick-International Harvester Company and killed three. On May 4, workers staged a protest against the killings at Haymarket Square, Chicago. A bomb went off and the police charged into the demonstrators. At least a dozen people died that day, including seven officers. Eight activists were sentenced to hang for the bombing, although there was widespread criticism about the lack of evidence.

American workers eventually got an eight-hour day, but it took several more major demonstrations and lots more people getting hurt. Many countries still don’t offer the benefits we now take for granted. Traveling around the world we come across people in lots of different lines of work. Some jobs are good, some are bad, and some are downright grueling. I’ll never forget a man I saw on a construction site in Damascus, Syria, back in 1994.

A crew was digging a deep trench into the sidewalk near our hotel, and every day my travel companions and I would pass by. Most of the men were down in the trench digging, but one guy had the job of sitting on an upturned bucket at street level manning a pump to take away water from the trench. He pulled on a rope attached to a pulley overhead, which yanked a crude pump at the bottom of the excavation. He’d set up a rhythm and sat there pulling all day. We saw him, every morning, noon, and evening, for days on end. We dubbed him, “The Man With the Most Boring Job in the World.”

I regret I never talked to him. While I’ve had my share of soul-destroying jobs, I bet he could have taught me a thing or two about what it means to work for a living. So Happy May Day, Man With the Most Boring Job in the World, and Happy May Day to all the other workers photographed in this gallery of shots by Gadling bloggers and members of the Gadling Flickr pool!

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Brittany Ferries Strike Affects Travel, Business In Three Countries

Brittany Ferries, Cap Finistère
A strike by the employees of Brittany Ferries is disrupting the movement of travelers and goods between England, France and Spain.

The BBC reports the French union that staffs the ferry service is striking in protest of cuts by the company, which is deeply in the red. Brittany Ferries operates several lines from England to various ports in northern France and Spain. In addition to travelers using the service to bring their cars across the water, about 3,000 commercial trucks use the service.

In a press release, the company stated that because of repeated wildcat strikes, they’ve made the decision to suspend almost all service: “The only route which will be unaffected is the Poole-Cherbourg passenger service which is operated on our behalf by Condor Ferries … Because of this indefinite stoppage we are recommending customers to travel to Dover where we currently have special arrangements in place with P&O Ferries and MyFerryLink to accept Brittany Ferries tickets [see website for details]. Unused Brittany Ferries crossings will be refunded.”

One of Brittany Ferries’ destinations is Santander in Spain, where I live part time. Port fees, customers using local businesses, and the shipment of goods all bring an injection of much-needed money into an economy in recession. Local paper El Diario Montañes reports that the ship Cap Finistère has been stuck here since September 20, with 500 passengers and 100 vehicles. Most have made their way to other ferries in France.

[Photo of the Cap Finistère courtesy George Hutchinson]

Rio de Janeiro police strike threatens Carnival festivities, then fizzles

rio police strikeA police strike in Rio de Janeiro just a week before Carnival threatened to wreak mass chaos upon Brazil‘s largest festival celebration. But just one day in, Rio’s state government announced that the strike had “failed”, with just a small percentage of officers taking part.

“It is very difficult to talk of a protest movement without participants,” said Chao Francisco, union president for the civilian police in Rio, reported the AFP.

The strike, which involved military police, civilian police, and firefighters, was intended to bring attention to low wages and came on the heels of a deadly 11-day police strike in Bahia. Residents feared that a Rio police strike would lead to similar violence, during a time when millions flood the streets in celebration.

After the strike was announced on Friday, the Rio city government quickly clamped down on organizers, arresting 17 police officers and threatening disciplinary action against hundreds of others associated with the walk-off. In Brazil, it is against the law for police officers and firefighters to unionize and strike.

With Rio hosting the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, all eyes are on the city to ensure that city officials can handle major events like Carnival, which officially kicks off on February 17th. The city has 14,000 soldiers on stand-by.

[via AFP and CBS News, Flickr image via JorgeBrazil]

UK strike slows down ports and airports

UK, UK Border AgencyUK airports and ports are experiencing delays as many customs and immigration officials are on a one-day strike.

The UK Border Agency is one of several UK public sector unions on strike over plans to change pensions, a move they say will have employees working longer, paying more into the system, and getting less out of it when they retire.

Some Border Agency workers started early, at 6pm yesterday, and most airports and ports are reporting some delays. These delays aren’t as bad as were expected, however, because qualified managers have stepped in to fulfill the absent workers’ duties and not all workers are on strike. Still, if you’re flying into the UK today, don’t expect to be relaxing in your hotel an hour after you land.

Passengers leaving the UK will not be affected because they don’t go through customs. Airport security workers are not on strike.

Other government facilities such as schools, courts, and offices are also closed or giving limited service.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]