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Caribbean Airline airplanes parked in the Piarco International Airport.

The Aviation Communication and Allied Workers’ Union (ACAWU) has called for Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to suspend its cost-cutting exercises and instead wait for Finance Minister Colm Imbert to talk in Parliament about the situation facing the State-owned airline before making any decision.

The T&T government owns 88.1 per cent of CAL.

In a statement issued yesterday, the ACAWU referred to September 29, when CAL’s chief executive officer Garvin Madera announced to employees that the airline would be implementing cost-cutting measures.

Those measures include salary reductions for eight months according to salary levels and temporary layoffs for three months.

Employees were set to start receiving reduced salaries from next Friday.

“We note that so far, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has not responded to the said proposal and neither have they so far made a statement on CAL in their 2021 Budget presentation,” the ACAWU stated.

With Imbert being the line minister for CAL, the union said it believes that he will speak specifically to the airline’s difficulties when he makes further contributions to the budget debate.

“We are firmly of the view that CAL should suspend their cost-cutting exercise and await that contribution. If CAL insists on proceeding, they should do so with the provisions of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefit Act in mind, noting that it would have been the intention of Parliament to protect Workers and Employers as far as is possible from manipulation and misrepresentations of the Act’s provisions,” the union stated.

The ACAWU proposed that the salary reduction for staff be three months instead of eight months utilising the same percentage proposed by CAL.

Staff receiving salaries less than $7,500 should not receive a reduction, ACAWU stated.

The greatest salary reduction 15 per cent should be placed on salaries over $40,000 it stated.

“A furlough period of three months will be instituted for so designated employees. Such affected employees will receive on regular paydays from the date of the institution of the furlough to the date of absorption back into CAL, a relief payment of 50 per cent the employee’s base salary,” ACAWU stated.

The ACAWU described the proposal as “not only reasonable but also in line with our law.”

“It will be one with which we can all live,” it stated.

CAL’s cost-cutting plans

The airline had announced on September 29, it would temporary trim staff by 33 per cent and reduce salaries, as the airline struggles with profitability due to closed borders.

The airline said its cost reductions would also include reducing contractors and temporary workers and allowances that are not relevant at this time.

The airline maintained that its current operations are not impacted by the temporary layoffs.

This includes our cargo operations, the domestic air bridge between Trinidad and Tobago, the Kingston and Barbados based commercial services and special Government-approved flights to/from Trinidad and Tobago.

CAL said that the temporary measures were to support the recovery of the airline. It said that reduced demand due to the global pandemic had presented significant challenges to the airline’s revenue and cash position and it must take further steps to streamline expenses and its manage cash.

The statement said that the decision was made after careful consideration, discussions with key stakeholders and with the support of the Board of Directors.

In March, the government announced the closure of this country’s borders effective Sunday, March 22 to all incoming and outgoing international flights.