The ongoing negotiations between the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) and Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) hit yet another stumbling block when CAL, to the union’s surprise, resubmitted a proposal that it had previously rejected.
Yesterday, the national airline revealed in a statement that it had sought the Ministry of Labour’s intervention as negotiations from September 1, 2015, to August 31, 2018, broke down. The company noted that the decision was taken only after “careful consideration” and the challenges faced in reaching “a mutually agreeable resolution”.
At the negotiations meeting last Wednesday, CAL conveyed that the Minister of Finance had recommended a return to the bargaining table. Furthermore, the Minister instructed that if an agreement could not be reached, the negotiations should be referred to the Ministry of Labour.
However, in a statement yesterday, the pilot body said it had “very little faith” in the Ministry of Labour’s intervention given line minister Stephen Mc Clashie’s response to the union’s ten per cent offer in August which he described as “unrealistic”. At the time, he told Guardian Media that the union must consider the company’s ability to pay. TTALPA said this was a troubling sign of bias by the minister.
The resubmitted proposal from CAL, dated August 15, according to TTALPA outlined changes, including the classification of pilots as hourly-rated workers, a reduction of approximately 25 per cent in pilot salaries on the 737 fleet due to slashed minimum guaranteed hours, the removal of the right for Trinidad and Tobago Pilots to work until age 65, and denial of backpay for pilots.
TTALPA again expressed its disagreement with CAL’s proposal, emphasising that the company had not responded to its counterproposal submitted on August 18. The association accused CAL of negotiating in bad faith and stated that CAL’s position seemed to be one of “take it or leave it.”
The development adds tension to the already strained relationship between TTALPA and CAL, with pilots expressing frustration over a lack of progress since the submission of negotiation proposals in October 2019. TTALPA said it had repeatedly urged CEO Garvin Medera and CAL to negotiate in good faith over the past four years.
The breakdown of the negotiations first came to light on August 20 when over 80 flights had to be cancelled because 73 pilots had called in sick that weekend. Approximately 7,368 passengers had been affected by the cancellations, costing CAL an approximate $15 million.
TTALPA said the company now seems “very anxious” to secure an extension of time to file a breakdown of the negotiations at the ministry while CAL, in its media release on Tuesday, said it is hopeful that the intervention of Minister Mc Clashie will lead to an early resolution. Calls to Minister Mc Clashie’s phone went unanswered.
Despite both parties not being able to reach an agreement on the new terms and conditions for the pilots, they have both expressed willingness to continue dialogue with each other.