Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 2nd 2014 Contents A5
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Hundreds of passengers booked to travel
to Tobago, Miami and New York on
Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flights were
stranded at the Piarco and ANR Robinson
International Airports in Trinidad and
Tobago yesterday, after 24 pilots who were
rostered to fly called in sick.
The sickout forced CAL to ground flights
to the destinations as the official busy July-
August vacation period kicked off.
In an internal memo to all CAL staff, CEO
Michael DiLollo said it was unfortunate the
action had come at the start of the busy
"We are naturally concerned firstly for
the health and welfare of our pilot body
since this is an unprecedented occurrence.
"This unfortunate situation has disrupted
our scheduled services at the beginning of
our critical summer season, during which
we count most on our operational crews to
demonstrate reliability and service for our
loyal customers," he wrote.
DiLollo also expressed concern about the
potential negative impact of the disruptions
to passengers, saying:
"Many families choose this time to travel
and have committed hard-earned savings
to enjoy this time together. To disappoint
them will surely be a serious breach of our
unspoken contract with them, a betrayal
far deeper than even our legal commitment
to provide the promised service."
A release issued by CAL yesterday said
while the management and the T&T Pilots'
Association (TTALPA), the pilots' majority
union, had been in communication, the air-
line was disappointed with the pilots' action.
It noted, however, that "Caribbean Airlines
will continue to urge further open and frank
discussion in good faith with TTALPA while
exploring all options available.
"Caribbean Airlines apologises to its loyal
passengers for all inconvenience caused by
these delays and assures that all will be
done to minimise the delays," the release
TTALPA industrial relations consultant
Gerard Pinard confirmed there was a meet-
ing late yesterday between DiLollo and Cap-
tain David Pereira to discuss the pilots' con-
"We are, however, waiting on formal
correspondences from CAL of what was
discussed and the agreements reached. The
pilots remain guardedly optimistic," Pinard
told the T&T Guardian.
He said one of the major reasons for the
pilots' actions was CAL's refusal to sign off
on a memorandum of understanding over
"The company reneged and put off the
signing upon resumption of negotiations.
The association will like negotiations to
resume in four weeks' time. However, the
company wants it to be pushed back to
"The pilots are disgruntled over outstand-
ing payments from 2011, so this too was
another contributing factor," he added.
Pinard said he also could not give any
assurance the pilots would resume duties
The chaos caused
by the closure of
passport offices in
San Fernando and
end this week, Min-
ister of Housing and
Dr Roodal Moonilal
He said so after a
meeting with Public
(PSA) president Watson Duke and Finance
Minister Larry Howai at Parliament, Port-of-
Moonilal, who is in charge of the Property
Division, holds responsibility for all govern-
ment buildings, including the immigration
In an interview afterwards, Moonilal said
the properties housing both offices had been
cleared by the Fire Services and the Occupa-
tional Safety and Health Authority.
"While some corrective work has to be done,
there is no imminent threat to employees," he
said, adding that OSHA had not issued any
enforcement notice declaring the buildings
"I am optimistic that workers will be back
on the job very soon," Moonilal said.
He also said Government was thinking about
returning the immigration services to the Gov-
ernment Campus Plaza being constructed at
"I have spoken to the Chief Immigration
Officer and we are about four to six months
from completing that building. The immigra-
tion workers will be happy to occupy a spank-
ing new building."
Moonilal added that government was looking
at the public service on a case-by-case basis.
"Having spoken to Minister Howai, I am
sure that the PSA may be more understanding
and some kind of agreement is pending to
resolve this matter," Moonilal said.
He said Duke had linked the shutdown of
the passport offices to the wider negotiations
for the PSA.
"Duke has informed us that he will meet
with his membership tomorrow and speak to
them about the recent developments," Moonilal
Duke could not be reached for comment
after the meeting yesterday, as calls to his cel-
lular phone went unanswered.
However, in an earlier interview, Duke said
health and safety issues were not being
addressed at the Immigration Division.
He said a T&TEC worker almost lost his
life recently because of an electrical problem
at the Port-of-Spain office. He also said he
would shut down other departments in
Chaguanas, Sangre Grande and Point Fortin.
He said over 600 employees were affected.
Scores of people again flocked to the San
Fernando office yesterday hoping to get their
A notice on the outside of the building said
services had been suspended until further
notice owing to occupational health and safety
offices will be
US, Tobago routes hit hard as...
CAL pilots in sickout
There was chaos at CAL s airport counters
yesterday as frustrated passengers demand-
ed answers and relief compensation after
learning their flights had been grounded.
Tobago teacher Avion Orr, of Speyside
High School, expressed her disgust with CAL.
"All they told me was that their pilots were
on strike and the next confirmed flight to
Tobago was on Thursday (tomorrow)," she
Orr, who was in the company of her col-
league, Deryck Wright and Form Six pupils---
Coryse Wright and Howard Hamilton---
arrived in Trinidad yesterday shortly after 6
am to attend a prize-giving function. The
pupils had won an art competition hosted
by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Orr said: "Imagine we were just having
lunch at the Hyatt and having fun and now
we are faced with this upset here at the air-
"I asked them what happens next for us
because we have no clothes, no food and no
money to stay anywhere in Trinidad because
we just came for a few hours. Our flight to
Tobago was supposed to be at 2.25 pm on
board flight BW1526.
"The part getting me vex is that the girls
at the counters don't know anything.
"They say they can't provide us with any-
thing in the interim. What getting me more
mad is to see them packing up their bags
and walking out."
Passenger, Malik Pierre, 16, spent several
hours at the airport as flight BW524 to JFK,
New York, was delayed. Pierre's mother, who
did not want to be named, described the sit-
uation as frustrating, although she was not
the actual passenger. She said: "All persons
are affected when flights are delayed. We left
here after 2 am yesterday and returned about
8 am, only to be told that the flight has been
again delayed by a few hours.
"My son is going on a vacation but we are
all affected because we have to be with him
until he goes up to the gate for departure."
In Tobago, passengers on connecting flights
were also badly affected. One of them, who
also wished not to be identified, told the
T&T Guardian she would most likely miss
her British Airways flight to London.
All passengers were asked yesterday to
confirm their flight times with the Flight
Status Tool on the airline's Web site at
www.caribbean-airlines.com prior to heading
to the airport to avoid any potential incon-
...Passengers frustrated by delays
Passengers and their family members and friends mill around in the international terminal at the Piarco International Airport yesterday.
Thousands of passengers were left stranded after domestic and international flights were disrupted by a sickout by CAL pilots.
PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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