of December 31, 2006 the life support plug will be pulled out of our
massively subsidised national airline BWIA and a new airline, Caribbean
Airlines will take its place.
a requiem to BWIA, in the upcoming weeks, I will share with you the words
of some BWIA personnel—a pilot, a member of ground staff, a former
manager and a retiree.
of stories about the airline and its passengers of delays, botched
bookings, Trini flight parties and overflowing baggage containing every
imaginable object from the kitchen sink to kutchela circulate with a
mixture of derision, humour and pride. Regionally, it has been
affectionately dubbed “Better Walk If Able” and “But Will It
or bad, it’s been ours, with one of the best safety records in the
world—not one passenger lost, not one plane down.
can’t allow BWIA or the service of some 1,800 people to be made
redundant, without leaving behind a lasting echo in our hearts.
series begins with the voice of a 37-year-old employee who has worked for
BWIA for 17 years.
are relieved. Finally, after years of being perpetually worried about our
jobs, working in limbo, restructuring, re-branding, tightening our belts,
a decision has been made and we can get on with our lives.
position falls under the Allied Caterers and Workers Union, which
represents airport customer services representatives, ramp attendants,
engineering and baggage handlers.
people keeping our aircraft airworthy have been treated the most shabbily.
We haven’t had a collective agreement since 1998 while Calpa (the pilots
union) and the superintendents union have enjoyed increases over the past
afford to fly free
the most senior in my department and my gross salary is $4,807 a month.
There are people who have been working up to 27 years with that salary.
For shift hours, you get an additional fee of $280. We have to pay
mortgages, buy groceries and books on that. Students coming fresh out of
school earn more.
public is not sympathetic to us because they assume we fly free around the
world. But 56 per cent of us can’t afford to go abroad.
we were going through negotiations the company wanted to buy out our
collective agreement and make us contract labour with no benefits for a
7.5 per cent increase over three years. We were going to have to pay for
health, save for retirement ourselves. It’s insane.
time it comes to a crunch we are told we are over staffed. Yet airport
customer staff, baggage attendants and call centre personnel work
overtime. In 2001, after a manpower planning exercise within the
reservations department we hired more people.
have been asking repeatedly for a forensic audit that would reveal where
we were haemorrhaging. It was never done.
believe management always knew they were going to close BWIA. That’s why
negotiations were stalled. We are now negotiating our enhanced VSEP
package, which will mean about $130,000 for people in my salary bracket.
For management and senior staff it will amount to millions of dollars. I
am not sure how these negotiations will turn out as we feel used because
they want us to remain with them until December 31 to assist them with the
transition to the new airline.
new company intends to hire 500 people. They want to reduce our fleet from
nine to five aircraft. All BWIA staff has to do is reapply. We believe
they will go the way of contract labour.
don’t believe in the viability of the new airline. I have given all to
my company. I grew up here. I thought if I stayed I could make a
difference. I’m hurt.”
week: View from the cockpit.