As reports circulated that Caribbean Airlines (CAL) may cut salaries and staff, the Aviation Communication and Allied Workers’ Union (ACAWU) warned against such action and breach of workers’ rights by the state entity.
In a media release, ACAWU said it noted that while CAL proposed reducing operating staff salaries by five to 20 per cent; limiting the staffing requirement needed to perform essential operations; and sending home the remaining staff for three months without pay (furloughing), these were in breach of section 4(d) of the Constitution.
Section 4 (d) states “the right of the individual to equality of treatment from any public authority in the exercise of any functions.”
The union said the action to be taken by the airline was revealed in a news story broadcasted on CNC3 on Friday, and since then CAL has neither denied nor confirmed the report, which has left workers in limbo about their employment status.
The story stated that CAL was looking to enforce the remedial plan from October, since its US$65 million government backing expires at the end of September. This move, CAL apparently noted, was designed to save about US$1 million per month.
ACAWU said while it understood the global and domestic economic challenges brought about by the covid19 pandemic, there were still policies and agreements to adhere to.
It said, “Trade unions recognise the covid19 pandemic’s detrimental impact on the world’s economies and therefore appreciate the accompanying fragile financial reality the situation presents to governments, businesses, citizens and trade unions alike. It requires of us all principled and reasonable approaches while acting in unison.
“ACAWU’s first step in that direction is our recognition of the need for reasonableness.”
The union’s general secretary Peter Farmer told Newsday in a telephone interview on Sunday, “The only union the company had any sort of discussions with was the TT Airline Pilots Association. They are saying the other two unions are not recognised.
“As long as CAL is a successor company, the contracts and everything under BWIA should be taken up by CAL. Everything is now in abeyance and they run things like that.”
The union added that as a state enterprise, any action by CAL to act as an independent body regarding staff restructuring would be an act outside the interests of the employees who are a part of the public service.
Farmer said, “They are singling out the workers there and telling them they need to take a pay cut, but other places that are under the government as state entities are being left out. It is like they are discriminating. They are not doing it equitably; they are undermining democracy. We are not saying that sacrifices should not be made but there must be some sort of collective approach. But it seems like they want to have their cake and eat it.”
CAL's head of corporate communications, Dionne Ligoure, did not respond to calls for comment.