June 11, 2023 -PHILIPSBURG—”I honestly find the level of complaints from employees at the Princess Juliana International Airport disheartening,” says the Leader of the United People’s UP Party and Member of Parliament, the Honourable Rolando Brison.
After hearing again from employees, Brison remarked that they feel victimized and that their jobs are always at risk if they do not “bow to the powers that be”, as some employees said.
“According to various employees, it’s become a situation where it is more about pleasing your bosses or being a part of ‘cliques’, as opposed to the level of work the employee produces.”
In a Sunday press release, Brison recalled when he visited the Airport and heard the employees’ grievance. “It appears the situation today has not improved,” he said.
Taking these grievances into account, Brison presented a motion to Parliament calling on the Government, which is the ultimate shareholder of the Airport, to have Princess Juliana International Airport Holding PJIAH investigate the employees’ grievances and prepare actions to be taken by PJIAH (the holding board) and PJIA’s Operating Board to remedy the situation.
His most recent comments on PJIA came on the heels of news that another local employee with 12 years of service to St. Maarten as a Communication Specialist at PJIA, is being railroaded for unclear reasons. Reports circulating in the local media were that PJIA CEO Brian Mingo had suspended PJIA’s Communications Specialist, over allegations that she had spread misinformation about his person and PJIA via WhatsApp. MP Brison says he knows many PJIA employees, including the Communications Specialist, whom he has known for nearly 20 years and considers a consummate professional.
“I’ve asked the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication, the Honourable Arthur Lambriex, to look into executing this motion that was understandably presented to the Government before he took office a few months ago. He has assured me that as Minister of TEATT, he is aware of the “potentially explosive” situation at the Airport and has been very frank with PJIA management about the issue. He assured me that he has also shared his concerns about the progress of the airport reconstruction.
MP Brison says he has recommended to Minister Lambriex that the Government consider executing the second part of the Airport motion to ensure that PJIAH conducts its management and reconstruction evaluation. “Part of that evaluation must include an employee (dis)satisfaction survey so that employees can submit their concerns directly to an independent auditor to prevent any potential victimization from the PJIA management,” stated MP Brison. MP Brison says he recognizes that Parliament has an “arm’s length” role in overseeing Government owned entities. He said, “This was especially clear in the court verdict on PJIA’s dismissal of its former COO. The Judge ruled that the former COO honoured the request of a past President of Parliament to resend confidential documentation to the Parliament as a publicity stunt and, accordingly, he felt PJIA justified in the COO’s dismissal.
Since the COO’s dismissal MP Brison says he has heard of others being targets of investigations initiated by Airport Management after they stood their ground on issues raised which they did not agree with. He said as recently as a week ago, he learnt that a criminal investigation is being conducted into allegations involving staff and management. “We must respect the role of the Judiciary on St. Maarten, but we must also fight against injustice where ever it is discovered,” said MP Brison.
“As Parliamentarians, we are the people’s representatives, and to have such a large number of disgruntled employees at such a crucial company like our Airport, certainly deserves our attention. Therefore, following up on the motion submitted by the UP Party’s faction in Parliament tabled is my right and my responsibility. Based on this motion, the Government can get answers and clarify what is truly transpiring with our employees at the Airport.”
“I want to remind PJIA employees and anyone who has grievances on the job that they can seek assistance to cover the cost of legal representation from the Government,” said MP Brison. He said, “We have an airport that is still not back to what it once was, and I am worried that what, for the most part, appears to be petty complaints for which local employees are being targeted are contributing to the delay in getting the Airport’s reconstruction finalized.”