|Air J pilots cry foul|
|Friday, 27 April 2012 11:05|
A recent decision of Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to drop the name Air Jamaica from its flight operations and to terminate staff, including 75 pilots represented by the Jamaica Airline Pilot Association (JALPA) has left both employees and union leaders outraged at the Trinidadian-owned company.
The airline's Acting Chief Executive Officer, Robert Corbie, said the pilots to be terminated will be offered the opportunity to be reemployed with the same benefits directly by CAL, in "a transparent process to ensure a smooth and seamless transition."
The pilots however are distressed by the pending lay-offs, which some interpret as an attempt by CAL to destroy their involvement with JALPA. One pilot, under condition of anonymity, says he is convinced the layoffs are an attempt to diminish the Jamaican pilots union and force them to accept terms set directly by CAL through membership in the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA).
He also regards the timing of CAL's announcement of the layoffs as "too coincidental," following a dispute before the Jamaican Industrial Disputes Tribunal with JALPA members operating under CARIBAL, the Jamaican-based subsidiary of CAL responsible for the airline's recruitment processes in Jamaica. The pilot also doubts that those currently employed by CAL who are among the leadership of JALPA will be reemployed.
Other pilots aren't convinced that the airline's rehiring process will be a "smooth and seamless transition." Most believe they'll be required to go through an interviewing process which "does not guarantee we'll be reemployed," says one pilot.
In reports Corbie would not confirm whether all the pilots would be rehired, but said the number to be rehired will be confirmed subsequent to an examination of the airline's manpower requirements.
Kavan Gayle, head of the Jamaican-based Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), also interpreted CAL's decision to lay off the pilots as "union busting in order to break up JALPA." Gayle questioned how Jamaican pilots employed by CAL could be represented by a Trinidadian-based association, when neither Jamaica's nor Trinidad and Tobago's laws would permit such a union.
The pending pilot layoffs came on the heels of announcements confirming that the name "Air Jamaica" was being dropped from all airports flight announcements, and that at least 150 customer service employees in Kingston and Montego Bay would be laid-off at the end of April.
"The entire CAL/Air Jamaica arrangement has been a mess," says one customer supervisor targeted for termination. "Not only is there no job security with Jamaicans with CAL, but there is also uncertainty with the airline's operations to and in Jamaica. This has been a significant deterioration from the operations of the former Air Jamaica, even with its financial problems. The prime minister and the transport minister should intervene with the Trinidadian government to review the agreement with CAL."
Neither Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller nor Minister of Transport, Omar Davies, has commented publicly on CAL's decision to lay off former Air Jamaica pilots.