The reclassification of the John A. Osborne Airport has been the subject of discussion in recent days as news broke that the Government of Montserrat had terminated the jobs of two night security officers stationed there.
According to the Montserrat Civil Service Association (MCSA), airport staff were told in September 2022, that the airport was being downgraded and that there would no longer be a need for the night security positions.
The John A. Osborne airport, which was first opened in 2005 and subsequently renamed in 2008, was classified as a Tier 1 airport. According to our research, Tier 1 airports are primarily the biggest and busiest airports in the world. They serve large aircraft and any planes that can transport at least 31 passenger seats. At no time in the history of the new airport was there capacity at JAO to handle aircraft of this size. Tier 2 airports serve smaller aircraft with scheduled services.
Based on the security and other safety regulations for Tier 1 airports, Montserrat was consistently in breach of its operational license as it does not have the capacity or resources to meet them. The decision to reclassify the airport to Tier 2 was within the remit of Air Safety Support International (ASSI), the UK body that has oversight of air operations on behalf of the governors in the British Overseas Territories.
According to Colin Fergus, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Works, Labour & Energy (MCWLE), the reclassification has been in effect for more than a year. The change “means we can employ lower security measures than we currently do without breeching our license requirements. You may or may not recall the outcry of couriers and staff back in early 2021 when the airport was under threat of losing its license for not having sufficient security staff on duty to meet regulatory requirements.
“We are not using less on a shift but have in fact increased the numbers allowing us to operate a proper rotation where the security officers now work fewer hours in a week (even than office workers),” the PS explained.
Of concern to the civil service union is the fact that the two affected night security officers were not given sufficient notice of the pending job loss and no new roles have to date been communicated to them.
In a statement dated, June 1, President of the MCSA, Nyota Mulcare said “On Friday, 26 May 2023, the Security Officers were informed, that the last working day for the Night Security, would be on 31st May 2023, and as at 1st June 2023, there would be no more Night Security at the John A Osborne Airport Facility. In the late afternoon of 31st May 2023, on WORKER’S APPRECIATION DAY, the officers received official communication, from the HRMU for the first time, informing them that the John A Osborne Airport, had been downgraded from a Teir-1 facility to a Teir-2. The communication further advised, that the Honourable Deputy Governor on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission, had approved, that the position of Night Security Officer, be abolished effective 31st May 2023, and that their services with the Government of Montserrat, be terminated on this basis, effective the same date. The officers were also informed of their proposed remuneration package, as a result, and thanked for the services they had provided to the Ministry of Communication Works Labour and Energy.”
Premier Joseph Farrell said his understanding is that in order to absorb the two officers into new positions a different contract has to be agreed to and their benefits calculated. “I am reliable informed that both will be given offers.”
On Saturday morning, the impact of the job losses were felt by the businesses which operate at the airport. Upon arrival to open at 6AM, the building was still shuttered. A cafe, two airlines and a shipping service operate from the JA Osborne Airport.