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Caribbean Airlines axing all Jamaican pilots

Friday, April 20, 2012    

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TRINIDAD-OWNED Caribbean Airlines (CAL) yesterday announced that the positions of all pilots represented by the Jamaican Airline Pilots' Association (JALPA) will be made redundant next month — a move one major trade union is likening to union busting.

Of the 75 JALPA members, 64 are currently employed to CAL, which also operates Air Jamaica, following a deal in 2009 for the sale of the Lovebird to the Trinidad Government.

In a statement released to the media, CAL said the Kingston-based pilots were yesterday morning advised by representatives of CAL and their subsidiary CARIBAL Ltd that their positions would be made redundant in May 2012.

The statement, however, provided no further details.

But in a letter from CAL's vice-president of human resources Charmaine Heslop-DaCosta to JALPA, which was obtained by the Jamaica Observer, the carrier informed them that all pilots other than those employed to CARIBAL are represented by Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots' Association (TTALPA).

"As you are aware, all pilots, as defined in your claim, other than those employed to CARIBAL, are represented by TTALPA as demonstrated by certificate of recognition from the Recognition Board in Trinidad and Tobago as the trade union for the pilots employed by CAL dated 30th November 2009," Heslop-DaCosta's letter said.

The letter informed further that negotiations between CAL and TTALPA have commenced and once concluded will establish the terms and conditions of employment of all pilots employed by CAL.

Yesterday, Senator Kavan Gayle, head of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, said this should not be allowed to happen.

"This can be categorised as union busting in order to break up JALPA as the trade union representing Jamaican pilots," he told the Observer.

He questioned how Jamaican pilots employed by CAL could be represented by a Trinidad-based association, noting that neither Jamaican laws nor any legislation in Trinidad and Tobago would allow that.

Gayle's point was supported by a JALPA source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Our legal advice is that that can't work," he said.

Gayle said also of great concern is what will now happen with a dispute currently before the Industrial Disputes Tribunal with JALPA members operating under CARIBAL.

"What Cal is seeking to do is to make these pilots (positions) redundant and offer them new terms and conditions for which they have to attend interviews to determine who will be rehired," he said.

But according to Gayle, the JALPA members are resisting this as they believe the transition should be seamless.

"CARIBAL being a subsidiary must be knowledgeable and cognisant of the performances of all these pilots, and so there should be no reason they should undergo another interview for employment," Gayle said. "It is unfair that they should undergo this type of treatment."

As such, he said, JALPA has requested a meeting with CAL's management in a bid to resolve the matter.

The JALPA source said the association will be meeting to devise a strategy going forward as it is expected that at least 15 per cent of its members may lose their jobs with the airline.

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