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46 pilots call in sick

By Sasha Harrinanan Wednesday, July 2 2014

AngER and frustration over repeated broken promises by Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL), may have led to 46 pilots calling in sick yesterday, says Industrial Relations Consultant for the Trinidad and Tobago Pilot’s Association (TTALPA), Gerard Pinnard.

However the pilots’ union itself has not issued a statement about the so-called “sick-out” action, which led to the cancellation of an estimated 44 flights, most on the domestic air bridge (Tobago).

When Newsday visited CAL’s counters at Piarco International Airport at midday yesterday, there were no visibly angry passengers, no one loudly demanding to be accommodated on another airline.

However all of the available seats were full; men, women and a few children with their luggage gathered in a semi-circle around them, waiting on word from the airline about the next available flight.

Newlywed couple, Sally and Veer from Tunapuna, were booked on a 1.45 pm flight to St Lucia for their honeymoon. They only found out about the pilot sick-out upon arriving at Piarco at 10.45 am. After two hours of waiting, they again approached the CAL agent at noon, and that’s when the couple was told they would be transferred to a British Airways flight to St Lucia, departing at 5 pm yesterday.

Sally told Newsday she was “depressed” by the news of her flight’s cancellation and “upset” that the airline didn’t have the courtesy to inform them, nor to provide them with timely updates. Fellow St Lucia-bound passenger, Gillian Henry lamented that “a whole day of my short week of vacation is being spent at the airport.” She did praise CAL’s counter staff for being “very helpful, trying to get me on a United Airlines flight to St Lucia this afternoon.”

TTALPA has been in negotiations with CAL for the period September 1, 2010 - August 31, 2013 but Pinnard told Newsday talks seemed to stall after a September 2012 meeting.

“CAL had promised, at that meeting, to prepare a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on several issues which the union and the airline had agreed on. Since then, it’s been promise after promise to get that agreement signed, the latest deadline being last Friday (June 27).”

“Instead, we got an email on Saturday, asking that everything be deferred to September 2014 and that CAL was not prepared to sign off on anything. So you can understand the pilots’ frustration,” Pinnard said.

That’s not all. “Variable incentive payments for the period 2011 - 2013 are outstanding. Pilots are owed this money for having met individual, departmental and corporate performance targets.”

Asked how soon the sick pilots might return to work, Pinnard could not give an answer but did say “that would likely depend on CAL’s response to issues discussed during a meeting this afternoon (Tuesday).”

Meanwhile CAL’s recently appointed CEO, Michael DiLollo, issued a statement to staff yesterday, expressing his disappointment with the pilots’ action, since the airline has been in communication with TTALPA.

He also said CAL was “naturally concerned firstly for the health and welfare of our pilot body since this is an unprecedented occurrence.

“This unfortunate situation has disrupted our scheduled services at the beginning of our critical summer season, during which we count most on our operational crews to demonstrate reliability and service for our loyal customers.”



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