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Pilots ground unsafe planes, staff fight move to Wallerfield

TOBAGO BUREAU Monday, July 17 2017

As Caribbean Airlines (CAL) pilots make good on a promise to ground the airline’s ATR fleet, corporate office staff are up in arms over a proposed relocation from Piarco to Wallerfield.

According to an internal memo addressed to Kristy Kanick, acting vice president of human resources, and copied to acting chief executive officer Jagmohan Singh, staff are questioning a proposed relocation of staff from their present location at Golden Grove Road, Piarco to Evolving TecKnologies and Enterprise Development Company (e-TecK) Park in Wallerfield.

“An airline is a 24 hour operation and this proposed move made by the Board of Directors is unfair to the workers, but more importantly it is putting staff lives at risk,” said one angry worker.

Many of the impacted employees have voiced open opposition to the move, citing fears over safety and the possible impact on their terms of employment.

Based on the concerns of the CAL employees, on July 13, leaders of CAL’s employee Change Management Team (CMT), Michelle Highly, Anita Luckey, Ronald Sukhbir, Vivekh Pundit and Dion Cox, signed and submitted a memo to the head of human resources which questioned the motives behind the proposed change.

“Is it a fact that the choice of the location is based on a request by e-TecK to our Board to facilitate a desire to rent and occupy their facilities to satisfy their own mandate,” the memo stated.

The memo also outlined concerns over staff security and stated Wallerfield is “frequented by murderers and kidnappers” and questioned whether “any consideration was given to the fact that employees will not be able to work outside of daylight hours” and if “provisions have been made for escort security when needed by employees.” Staff at the airline are also questioning why the relocation is being considered, which departments are being earmarked for the move and management’s decision to exclude staff representatives from the discussion process.

“We represent the entire staff and we believe the CMT should have been a part of the decision making process to relocate. Notwithstanding this, we are now respectfully requesting clarification on this issue,” the memo stated.

They are also demanding that management provide a response today on the proposed relocation as well as proof that public procurement guidelines were followed.

There have been recent safety concerns at CAL’s Golden Grove Road location, as part of the present compound was recently evacuated due to questions over structural integrity and safety.

In addition three employees reported being kidnapped at gunpoint and robbed while exiting the compound over the past 12 months.

However staff have voiced concerns that the move to Wallerfield will make the situation worse.

“The number of female workers at corporate are higher than male, and the employees they are seeking to relocate to Wallerfield are mainly women. We accept that conditions at Piarco need to be improved, but Wallerfield is just unsafe,” said one employee who requested anonymity.

Safety concerns are also at the heart of reported sick-out action by CAL pilots. On Friday, 10 pilots called in sick and on Saturday passengers on the air bridge faced long delays as pilots refused to operate the airline’s ATR fleet citing concerns over safety. The long delays continued yesterday as several of the airline’s scheduled flights were cancelled. In a release posted yesterday on their website CAL said the flights will be operated by its Boeing 737 fleet.



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