After instituting furloughs and wage reductions, Caribbean Airlines (BW, Port of Spain) (CAL) now wants to reduce staff through voluntary early retirements.

This is according to an email by Chief Executive Officer Garvin Madera sent to employees - and seen by Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday - in which he said the national airline had no other choice, given its continued precarious financial position.

Staff earning less than TTD20,000 Trinidadian dollars (USD2,947) monthly also have been asked to take a further 5% salary cut from June 16 through to the end of the year.

CAL in September 2020 already introduced cost-cutting measures, including slashing salaries for eight months from mid-October 2020 for those paid more than TTD7,500 (USD1,105) a month, on a tiered structure. About one-third of employees were temporarily laid off. The use of contractors and temporary workers was reduced and allowances were cancelled.

CAL spokesperson Dionne Ligoure said discussions were ongoing with those considering voluntary early retirement. “This is a difficult time for airlines globally and for Caribbean Airlines. However, the human resources department, supported by the management team, continues to provide information and support to employees, as we navigate this unprecedented scenario,” she said.

Aviation Communication and Allied Workers’ Union (ACAWU) general secretary, Peter Farmer, said the union was opposing the extension of the furlough. “We suggested that they put staff on a rotation instead of temporary lay-offs. We were told that the union is not the recognised majority union, so they will not hear from us.”

Ligoure said CAL recognised majority bargaining unions, the TT Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) and Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) in Jamaica.

As previously reported, the airline, by May 2020, had drawn down most of its funding from a USD65 million government-guaranteed loan.

In February, CAL announced its unaudited financial results for the year ending December 2020, with the impact of the global pandemic resulting in an operating EBIT loss of TTD738 million (USD109.2 million) on revenue of TTD802 million (USD118.6 million).

Following renewed COVID-19 restrictions, the airline from May 8, 2021, reduced passenger capacity by 50% on the domestic air bridge between Port of Spain and Tobago, in addition to a reduction in frequencies to three flights per day.