Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has reiterated his position that regional governments “have a moral obligation” to treat with the issue of severance payment to former employees of the cash–strapped LIAT (1974) Limited even as two shareholder governments have paid their nationals.
Barbados has joined St. Lucia in announcing a payment scheme for the LIAT workers in their respective islands, but Browne, reiterated his position of last week when he said that his administration was no longer prepared to meet bilaterally with local trade unions to discuss the issue and that efforts should be made to include the other shareholder governments of the airline.
“My understanding is that the (Barbados) liability may be capped at about 10 million. I stand corrected if it is more, but I got the impression that it is between eight and 10 million,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley said he Barbados government will pay the three-year-old outstanding severance owed to former employees amounting to BDS$10 million (One BDS dollar=US$0.50 cents).
She told Parliament last week that her administration would fully compensate the 89 Barbadians who were impacted when the Antigua-based airline terminated hundreds of its employees from across the region in 2020 without paying severance.
“We want therefore to announce…that the government of Barbados will take responsibility for all of the Barbadian workers and that the government of Barbados will pay up to BDS$75,000 in cash to each and every person in terms of their calculated severance liability and that any number for severance over BDS$75,000 will be paid in bonds.”
The former LIAT workers, including pilots, have been demanding the million of dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) owed in severance and other benefits.
In January, the St. Lucia government made good on its promise to pay compensation to former employees of the cash-strapped regional airline, with the workers receiving bond certificates from the government that are cash redeemable and can also be used as collateral to secure loans
In 2021, the Antigua and Barbuda government offered two million EC dollars to partially satisfy the cash component of the compassionate payout to former LIAT workers here.
The major shareholders of the Antigua-based airline, which entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Browne said that Barbados, the biggest shareholder government, estimated at 52 per cent, has limited its liability.
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It is regrettable that something as important and as vital as this is taking this long to resolve. All the shareholder governments are responsible for paying the LIAT staff their severance. The fundamental and the mechanics of how it is done should have long been worked out by all the share holder governments. The LIAT staff should have taken the matter to Court long time because the situation is untenable. The shareholder governments are responsible for paying the severance – LIAT belongs to them. These are the reasons why I see the regional integration movement as a big joke. Look at how these workers are treated and it’s no wonder they cannot even agree to resuscitate LIAT. In fact, they prefer to individually go and enter into arrangements with other carriers with a view of meeting the needs of their respective countries. By the look of things, all of them except Antigua done with LIAT.
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