T&T's high crime level is at the centre of ongoing discussions between LIAT and the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), as the airline pushes to establish a base in T&T reduce its overnighting crews' US$1 million annual bill. "The need for the new base arises from LIAT having to overnight a minimum of 18 crew members every night in hotels in Port-of-Spain at an annual cost of over US$1 million. "The opening of a base in Trinidad is a part of the company's attempts to respond to the dynamics of regional inter-island traffic, including Trinidad's significance as a business and commercial centre for the southern Caribbean," LIAT, in a release issued last Thursday. In response, LIALPA issued its own statement yesterday to "set the record straight and dispel the inaccuracies stated in the LIAT press statement."
LIALPA said, "Whilst the LIAT's press release admits to 'increased security risks associated with Trinidad,' it addressed this risk in terms of burglar alarms and cameras. It does not specifically address the issue demanded by the pilots that their housing must be in a secured gated community." The pilots' association said, "The Government of T&T has clearly stated that crime is out of control and is their number one priority. "Travel warnings have been issued by the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to their citizens. Earlier this year, a former LIAT captain was shot to death trying to foil an attempt to kidnap his wife. "It is unsafe for aircrews to be operating while emotionally distressed over the safety of their families left behind."
LIAT's regional bases
The pilots said LIAT/LIALPA collective agreements have in the past specified as many as five bases at one time, for example, St Lucia, St Kitts, Grenada, Antigua and Barbados. "The current agreement states that Antigua is the only base, but the 2001 agreement allows for both Antigua and Barbados. Currently, as a documented agreement before the arbitration tribunal headed by Justice LeRoy Inniss, it is clearly stated that the parties have agreed that the bases would be Antigua and Barbados. "Whilst the collective agreement allows for crew transfers between countries, they must first be designated as bases," LIALPA stated.
LIAT said its management retained professional accounting and consulting services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to undertake a cost of living adjustment (COLA) study to assess any differentials in costs that might arise for pilots and flight attendants as a result of having to be based in Trinidad. "The PWC study specifically included costs associated with the increased security risks associated with Trinidad," LIAT stated. In response, the pilots said, "Contrary to their press statement, while LIALPA is willing to accept all finding and assumptions of LIAT's consultancy firm, LIAT has flatly rejected the financial assumption applied by that firm that housing cost should not exceed one-third of salary."