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An Air Caribbean Airlines aircraft descends into Piarco International Airport.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is scheduled to meet today with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) which represents about 100 of the airline’s 233 employees in Jamaica to discuss the company’s retrenchment exercise.

In an interview with Guardian Media Limited, BITU President, Kavan Gayle said the union intends to raise questions about the timing of the retrenchment exercise during that meeting.

Just about two weeks ago, the company announced it would restructure its operations after a $172 million loss in the first quarter of 2021, retrenching about 450 of its staff and adjusting its route and fleet.

“It is our view that one of the things that we would have anticipated is that the reopening of the borders would somehow dictate what the flow would be, going forward. We question at this time the need for a restructuring that is going to create a cut in the terms of the complement that is required when no one knows what the reopening, in terms of transiting passengers will be,” Gayle said.

He said the union intends to also enquire about the airline’s business model after the restructuring exercise.

“We also want to review in detail what this cost reduction will represent what is targeted in areas of operations, fleet and other areas around the operations. We are very concerned that you are seeking to cut the complement when no one knows what will be needed in terms of the manpower requirement going forward.”

Gayle said the union is hopeful that CAL will be open to taking steps to mitigate job losses. He said this is especially important given the job losses already brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said in Jamaica, which is heavily reliant on its tourism industry, about 75 per cent of that sector’s employees have been without jobs since March 2020.

BITU also intends to make a series of proposals to CAL to generate revenue, including the possibility of creating a travel hub in the Caribbean.

“The Caribbean is geographically ideally placed in terms of the region so it is an ideal location for connections from both North and South and maybe the business can explore the possibility of treating the Caribbean as a central hub for connecting of flights,” Gayle said.

He said BITU will also propose new routes to the airline that can become very profitable for CAL.