PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – A senior Trinidad & Tobago government minister Monday blamed “a handful of individuals” that forced the state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to cancel dozens of flights on its domestic, regional and international routes on Sunday.
In a statement late Monday, CAL said that the actions by pilots to call in sick directly caused the airline to cancel over 60 international and domestic flights.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for a community center in Cascade on the outskirts of the capital, Energy and Energy Industries Minister, Stuart Young, told the audience that the “complete shutdown of our national airline” had been undertaken “by a handful, a literal handful of individuals who thought that was the way to treat citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
“You must understand with an airline we have a wide, wide, customer net of international travellers as well and when you trace that back it is all about entitlement,” said Young, adding “ there is a limited pot that’s the treasury and there are so many persons that have to be looked after, the vulnerable, the aged”.
CAL Monday was granted an ex-parte injunction by the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago, restricting the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) and its membership from taking industrial action within the meaning of the Industrial Relations Act including calling in sick en masse.
The injunction also ordered TTALPA to instruct its membership to immediately report for duty as rostered and required in the normal course of their employment with the airline.
The Industrial Court said that its orders should continue “until further order” and that the application for the ex-party injunction “be returnable on the 28th day of September, 2023, at the hour of 9.30 o clock”.
CAL said some international and domestic flights “are still impacted and our dedicated Reservations Service Centre is actively working to contact all affected customers”.
“In light of the impact on our customers, Caribbean Airlines moved quickly to recover by pursuing alternatives and leased charters to transport the displaced passengers on the international and regional routes. The Port of Port of Spain assisted the airline’s domestic operations, by adding a special ferry sailing which took passengers to and from Tobago.”
Media reports said that the employees of the airline had taken industrial action after wage negotiations had broken down.
But TTAPA denied that there has been a sick out or industrial action, saying it was “unaware of any strike action being taken by the pilot body”.
The association said that in accordance with Section 67(2) of the Industrial Relations Act, Chapter 88:01 the pilot body and its members are barred from taking such industrial action since any employer or worker engaged in an essential service is barred from taking industrial action.
TTAPA said it has assured the public that “its members continue to fly with their safety and best interests at heart”.
Young, who is also a Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, told the ceremony, that taxpayers had take a decision “in the last few years, especially throughout the period of COVID, where airlines were one of the most affected industries in the world to keep Caribbean Airlines afloat”.
He said the taxpayer had put money “which was difficult to come by. Into Caribbean Airlines…because we believed as a policy, we should keep a national airline…going.
“Citizens let us not fall into those traps because we must always think of the others in our society and not only see what is in front of us right here,|” Young added.