By Robert A. Emmanuel

Last week, OBSERVER media reported that the administration, through the weekly Cabinet notes, requested that all air traffic controllers undergo a medical assessment as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or risk being de-certified.

During the recent post-Cabinet briefing, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lionel Hurst, said the statement was to “put the fire under the feet” of the air controllers.

However, the Guild of Antigua and Barbuda Air Traffic Controllers (GABATCO), through an email sent to our newsroom, made clear that Air Traffic Controllers were not averse to or rebuffing the government’s request to get a “free doctor’s visit”, but needed clear guidelines as to the conditions upon which air traffic controllers can be decertified or interdicted from their duties.

GABATCO’s general secretary Natasha Mussington, who penned the email, stated: “Many states internationally, including Antigua and Barbuda, do not require of their air traffic controllers to hold an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) license, once they have completed courses at, and received a certification from an appropriate ATC College.”

She continued: “In countries where controller licensing is mandatory, the employer—in most cases the government—implements a procedure to be followed, if an officer fails the medical examinations, that is, transferring the officer to another department without a reduction in the officer’s remuneration.”

OBSERVER also spoke yesterday with Wesley Joseph, Public Relations Officer for GABATCO, who noted that the requirement for an air traffic controller to undertake a medical examination was relatively new for the country, borne out of the recommendations of the ICAO.