Tribunal orders Air Jamaica staff to keep flying
By Curtis Rampersad Publications Editor
Air Jamaica pilots attached to State carrier Caribbean Airlines (CAL) were blocked from taking strike action yesterday after they threatened to stop flying during the lead-up to Christmas, the second busiest travel season of the year.
On Thursday afternoon, CAL was served notice of industrial action to be taken within 72 hours by the Jamaican Airline Pilots Association (JALPA).
The notice was delivered to CAL at the Ministry of Labour in Jamaica.
The pilots are said to be upset about salary issues, and aviation sources said they submitted a claim for wages to CAL in Port of Spain almost nine months ago, but an agreement had not been concluded.
This could not be immediately confirmed yesterday, but in a statement to Jamaican media late Thursday, CAL said the threat of strike action by the pilots was “regrettable… as the pilots themselves wrote there is nothing Caribbean Airlines is in breach with them”.
Jamaican Minister of Labour Pearnel Charles told reporters in Kingston on Thursday that the matter between the pilots and CAL was referred to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal in that country, and an attempt was being made to prevent a shutdown of the airline’s operations out of Jamaica.
The tribunal met with the parties yesterday and issued a stop order against JALPA, with respect to this dispute.
Today, the Jamaican Industrial Disputes Tribunal issued an “Order To Refrain From Industrial Action” against JALPA, with respect to the dispute between CARIBAL Ltd (a fully owned subsidiary of CAL) and CAL’s Jamaican pilots and, in particular, “that the industrial dispute shall not take place,” CAL said in a statement last night.
“We are delighted that a sensible outcome has been achieved for families, friends, tourists and all customers into and out of Jamaica. It is not expected that passengers will experience any interrupted service during this Christmas season. Our contingency plans are still in effect and shall carry through for a few weeks at a much lower scale, and we have retained the ability to bring the contingencies fully up if issues arise to ensure there is no impact to the consumer.”
Transport Minister Devant Maharaj and Nicholas have also been involved on Thursday in preventative measures against disruption of travel, which arose with the strike threat by the Jamaican pilots.
Contacted yesterday, Minister Maharaj told the Express he had become involved in the matter after Nicholas contacted him on Thursday night.
He also described the threat of strike action as “regrettable, especially when Trinidad owns Air Jamaica 100 per cent”.
He said he was at a loss as to what could have motivated the threat by the pilots and said the CAL board of directors had treated with the situation, and there would be no disruptions.
Since July 1, CAL has successfully integrated the Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines brand into “One Airline”.
“We have invested significantly into the pilot body, in particular with Boeing 737 training and development, provided the best in-class aircraft, good employment benefits and provided the employment environment for our Jamaican pilots. The Air Jamaica brand, which consists of 650 employees, will continue to operate,” the airline said.
In November, Nicholas said CAL turned a $200 million profit.
But the Draft Estimates of Current Expenditure 2012, one of the national budget documents says Government subsidised the airline’s operations to the tune of $290 million this year.
The stop order preventing the Jamaican pilots from taking action came one day after strike action by pilots of regional carrier LIAT continued, which temporarily stranded hundreds of passengers across the Caribbean from Tuesday.
LIAT said it resumed normal operations yesterday.
by Carla Bridglal