Another 103 LIAT employees to be terminated

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LIAT employees during union meeting in 2020

Another 103 employees of the collapsed regional airline LIAT are to be terminated.

This has been revealed by Cleveland Seaforth, the Antigua and Barbuda court-approved Administrator of the company in a letter dated January 22, 2021 and addressed to Prime Minister Mia Mottley and eight other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government in which he warned the CARICOM counterparts that they could be exposed legally unless some effort was made to pay the affected workers.

However, Prime Minister Mottley told Barbados TODAY tonight she had not yet seen the letter and would not comment until she had seen it.

In that letter – a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY – Seaforth even placed Mottley and the other Heads on notice of possible legal action that could be taken against them with regards to their financial obligations to the LIAT employees.

Seaforth, who is charged with administering the affairs of the company during its current restructuring process urged Mottley to assist in paying the EC$79 million in severance owed to the 564 workers already put on the breadline.

“To date, 564 employees have been terminated and as the restructuring process is completed, the remaining 103 employees will also be terminated,” the administrator told the regional leaders including Antigua and Barbuda’s Gaston Browne, Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr Keith Rowley, Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit.

He disclosed that as at April 30, 2020, the total unpaid entitlements to employees across the region amounted to EC$119,006, 962.

“Of this amount, EC$79,011,337 is in respect of the employees’ legal severance entitlements,” the letter stated.

Seaforth, whose letter also went to Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, St Kitts and Nevis’ leader Dr Timothy Harris and his St Lucian counterpart Allen Chastenet, said that based on preliminary estimates, it is higly unlikely that any significant portion of the employees’ severance would potentially come from the sale of the LIAT estate upon eventual liquidation.

“Against the backdrop as noted above, the purpose of my letter is to make an appeal to the respective governments for consideration to be given to the payment of employees’ severance entitlements of approximately EC$79 million,” the LIAT administrator wrote.

The airline official then sought to make out a “strong” case for the hundreds of “suffering” workers from Barbados and other Caribbean territories to be paid their outstanding monies without further delay.

Seaforth termed as most unfortunate the fact that the workers were unlikely to receive any meaningful compensation from the sale of the LIAT estate.

“It is most unfortunate, as over the years, notwithstanding the continued financial ill-health of the company, the employees committed themselves and continued to provide service to the company,” the court-sanctioned official declared.

He contended that the staff continued to serve the airline in spite of those circumstances because they firmly believed they would not have experienced any hardship since LIAT was owned by regional governments.

“There was the expectation that the company would never be abandoned by the respective governments,” Seaforth argued.

“Despite the known insolvent position of the company, the employees relied on the undertaking of the respective governments’ Letters of Comfort to the company’s auditor to provide financial support for the continued operations of the company.”

He continued: “The letters of support as issued by the respective governments do [sic] in fact create a litigation exposure for the governments.”

The administrator also told the Barbados Prime Minister and her regional counterparts that the employees saw themselves as working for a state-owned entity which was engaged in fostering Caribbean integration and as such, the notion of them being quasi-government civil servants, was foremost in their minds.

He said that based on his discussions with the unions in the various territories, it was “clearly” evident that both the current and former employees are experiencing severe financial hardship and a high level of disappointment and disillusionment in what is perceived as a lack of support from the respective governments.

He lamented that their situation was made even worse by the impact of COVID-19 because of the inability of workers to find alternative sources of employment due to the economic downturn.

Seaforth said that apart from any possible severance which may come from the LIAT estate, the Antigua and Barbuda Government has indicated it is prepared to offer the staff up to a maximum of 50 per cent of their severance either by cash, land or government bonds or a combination of the three.

“Against the initiative being contemplated by the Antigua and Barbuda government, I write to inquire if such an approach can be considered by other governments within the region and whether each government would be prepared to engage in dialogue on this matter with the government of Antigua and Barbuda,” he asked.

He welcomed the opportunity to further discuss the issue with the governments as a group or individually in an effort to chart a way forward for the employees to receive “some form of compensation” for their legal severance entitlement.

Seaforth informed the CARICOM leaders he had copied the letter to Secretary General of CARICOM Ambassador Irwin LaRocque with the expectation that a regional approach could be pursued in this matter, if considered appropriate. He said he is hoping a meeting could be convened to thrash out this issue.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Gaston Browne,I am hearing that you are going to tax items bought on line at Amazon.Here is an idea from a not smart/bright person.Instead of looking to pick low hanging fruits.Why not get your Foreign Affairs Team together.Set up a meeting and engaged Amazon.Try and get them to build a facility in Antigua to serve the Eastern Caribbean.Then contract LIAT to deliver the packages and whatever passengers are flying at this time.In my opinion it would create jobs at the Amazon facility and infused some cash into cash strapped LIAT.Like I said earlier in my comments.It is just an idea from a not so smart a person.By the way I have 4 decades of Distribution Management experiences at the highest levels.Worked all over this country(USA) and in some countries around the world to include Germany and England.I want to see the people and Antigua and Barbuda grow together.They are the country.If they do not succeed.Changes are the physical country/landscape would not.What do you think,Gaston Browne?

    • Ridiculous idea. Island is too small. Island is not developed enough for their standards of facility. They wouldn’t trust a collapsed airline to distribute for them. Not enough revenue generated for it to be worth their while. If they were to do this it would be from a much bigger island……. Oh wait……. Miami, USA

      • @Cheap Trip:Island too small,you say.The island is not small at all.It is your under developed non forward thinking mind that needs to be developed.You do not know one damn thing about the inner running of Amazon.What I know.are up my sleeves.Come with ideas not bull shit.You do not want to test and my resolve.

    • You have 4 decades of experience on an international basis but you’re not a smart person? Right…….. that makes….. No sense

      • @FEM Fresh:I did say I am not a smart person.What are your ideas?You are attacking me for my idea.At least it is something to think about.Perhaps if I were a white man and or Chinese.You would be saying.It is a great idea.Because I am a National of Antigua and Barbuda.You and short sighted persons would want to knock me down.You do not know me.I do not run from anyone or anything.

        • @ the Falcon your comments and name says everything about you high treason and espionage just comment on the situation with the Liat workers and leave cheap trip opinion alone.

    • That is a great idea

      It’s an untapped market. It’s already too expensive (shipping and ridiculous duty) and difficult to get online orders to Antigua. I’m guessing the other Caribbean islands have similar problems

      If someone or some government can open up this market in an affordable way for the consumer it would be a billion dollar industry

  2. Antigua is responsible, as it refused to go along with the other shareholders to liquidate the company. Threatening legal action is not going to help one bit. All of a sudden Gaston Brown gone silent. The share holders did not appoint Seaforth he was appointed by Gaston Brown and the courts.

  3. This is unfortunate. Another death of a Caribbean Institution due lack of proper oversight, excessive executive pay and corrupt governments. Feel bad for the employees that made liat functional for so long. The pilots, stewardesses, mechanics and all the others.

  4. @Falcon and Snowman:Outstanding idea! Had this conversation with another some time ago. Will only come to fruition when a political figure or one of their operatives can get a piece of the deal. Doubt Beazos and his operational team will entertain perceived corrupt government officials. All that is needed is warehouse capacity. A hub airport and seaport are already in place. Warehousing is a challenge. It can be built out in relative short order.

    • Are you mad? I think so. The day amazon turns up to a tiny island like Antigua and decides it wants to distribute from it is the day I see pigs fly!!!

    • Don’t you think part of the reason Amazon is killing businesses in Antigua is because those businesses sell mostly made in China crap and factory serviced items at very high prices? There does not appear to be any quality control in Antigua and the duties, taxes, paperwork and the whole customs system are just a ridiculous antiquated expensive nightmare that needs to be revamped.

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