ATS workers’ long standing grievances with its management came to a head when Riaz Sayed-Khaiyum was appointed as Chair of the ATS Board.
Two of the three workers’ directors on the Board were fired when they questioned his appointment which they claimed was made unlawfully.
The two Directors had also refused to agree to the government proposal to pay what they considered an excessive sum as damages to Fiji Airways for an accident involving ATS personnel.
The government proposed a payout of $3.5m when the damage was assessed at just $600,000 by the insurers.
To make matters worse, the workers got wind of a secret government-backed scheme to sell the workers’ share to Fijian Holdings by obtaining the consent of pliant workers’ directors on the ATS Board.
When the workers who own 49% shares in the company, attended a special shareholders meeting two weeks ago to discuss these issues, they were locked out by management on their return to work.
“There is an ominous nexus between the two issues – the appointment of Riaz as Board chairman and the proposed ATS sale,” says Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry who visited the protesting workers again on Saturday as a continuing gesture of solidarity.
Mr Chaudhry had earlier visited the locked out workers on Friday before Christmas (22 December) promising Labour’s support for the beleaguered protesters. He was accompanied by Jagath Karunaratne, Leader FUFP, and two FLP officials Aman Singh and Steven Singh.
“Riaz’ appointment as Board chair not only smacks of nepotism but is also unlawful as the ATS Board was not consulted before the appointment was made,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“It is clearly a calculated move by AG Khaiyum to exert control over the ATS Board,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The former Prime Minister met with FTUC officials following its national executive meeting in Nadi on Saturday. The meeting decided to stage a protest march in Nadi on 13 January in support of the locked-out workers. It is also contemplating a national strike should the crisis not be resolved soon.