Caribbean Airlines Limited has been described as one of “many rogue state enterprises” because of its procurement practices, and the airline needs to refocus its remuneration which favour pilots and its management staff to include all staff and stakeholders,
This is according to chairman of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on State Enterprises David Small, who said “being rogue applies even to Caribbean Airlines.”
The term “rogue State enterprises” was uttered yesterday by JSC member Wade Mark at a press conference at the Office of the Parliament, to report on its finding and recommendation on CAL’s operations that state enterprises alone accounted for $45 billion of the country’s $93 billion public debt.
Small said some of the information coming out of the three hearings the JSC held with CAL personnel in recent months “were mind-boggling” and “should not be happening in a state-owned company.”
“We had to literally tear the information out of CAL particularly on some issues.”
When the JSC questioned the purchase of the ATR aircraft at one of the hearings, he said, CAL could not provide documentation of the tendering process used. What they presented, he said, was woefully short.
They spent several hundred millions of dollars and the committee was yet to receive documentation of the approval for the purchase of the ATRs or process used, he said. “There was a clear procedure for the tendering which CAL did not follow.
“Either documentation or the process did not exist or they did not want us to know. We have an entity spending several million and they cannot tell us the procurement process used,” he said.
He said CAL’s executives resorted to legal opinion when they were challenged to answer questions.
“This chairman was having none of that. Why should a company, owned 100 per cent by the State, be challenging the authority of the Parliament?
“CAL does not understand that they are using state funds, and whatever money they earn belongs to the State of Trinidad and Tobago. They are merely the custodians and should not be taking care of themselves in the way they have been taking care of themselves,” he said.
On the issue of CAL paying special focus on the pilots’ emolument, Small said, they make up about ten to 15 per cent of the staff at the establishment yet they receive about 45 per cent of the wages and salaries bill.
“This seeming preferential treatment for pilots has to end. Such practices, salary and payment increases to pilots with no commensurate increases to other staff, is demoralising, counterproductive and must end immediately,” Small said.
While he accepts that piloting is a special skill, he said, no other airline focuses half of its salaries on its pilots.
CAL reported to the committee, Small said, there were pilots who reached 60, received their benefits and continued on contract until the age of 65. It was part of the terms of the collective bargaining agreements. But what makes it worse, he said, is that they retain seniority over people on the establishment.