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Plane talks break down

The trinidad Guardian / The Ministry of Labour’s hands are tied in bringing a resolution to the ongoing strike action taken by Caribbean Airlines pilots.

This was confirmed by Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus yesterday when asked if she intended to intervene to resolve the weekend protest taken by pilots.

“First to begin, I cannot intervene based on the Industrial Relations Act… outlines the conditions under which I intervene in any dispute. And neither of the parties (CAL and T&T Airline Pilots Association—TTALPA) have requested my intervention at this time,” the minister said.

Baptiste-Primus said based on information received “the pilots have agreed to go back to work.”

But when told that yesterday’s strike triggered a delay of several flights to and from Tobago, as well St Lucia, Baptiste-Primus said if this was the case “you don’t need rocket science to work that out…that they have not really gone back to work.”

The body representing the protesting pilots, the T&T Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) was invited to a meeting with the chairman and vice chairman of the CAL board yesterday to engage in further discussion.However, T&T Guardian understands that talks broke down.

CAL pilots are refusing to fly the five ATRs for the airline because of the airline’s total refusal to address serious safety issues and concerns they have raised.

Since Friday, a number of flights had to be cancelled and were delayed due to the airline’s pilot refusing to operate the company’s ATR aircraft which they say have been experiencing constant technical problems.

At the Tobago’s terminal and Piarco International Airport yesterday many passengers whose flights were delayed complained of waiting for hours.

Last Sunday, a CAL flight crew had to make an emergency landing at Hewanorra International Airport in St Lucia after a warning light came on. Two days later another ATR aircraft scheduled to fly to St Lucia faced technical problems and passengers were forced to disembark and utilise another aircraft.

CAL’s communications manager Dionne Ligoure yesterday confirmed the flight delays. Ligoure said several flights from Trinidad to Tobago and vice versa as well as its lone St Lucia flight were delayed.

“In the airline business when you have delays running one after the other you would expect spill overs into the next day and we have had delays today as well. But that was expected.” Ligoure could not say how many flights were delayed.

She said a flight to Barbados may have been affected as well.

“I know last night Grenada went on time and it came in on time this morning. We have engaged the ATR aircraft and we are using jets to supplement the operation. We have put on the service to minimise disruption to the confirmed passengers.” She said all confirmed passengers were treated with priority.

Hoping that the strike is ironed out in the shortest possible time, Ligoure apologised to passengers who were inconvenienced.

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