The Antigua and Barbuda Government has adopted a take it or leave it approach in its deliberations with former LIAT staff over severance payments.
At yesterday’s cabinet meeting, the government decided to stick to its position of offering 50 per cent of the severance cost to all LIAT workers.
“The Cabinet has re-iterated its position and will not be involved in any further discussions regarding any possibility of negotiations of the issue of its compassionate offer,” a note from the Cabinet said.
“The Cabinet continues to ask the administrator to accelerate the sale and buy-back of LIAT’s chattel assets. The object is to ensure that LIAT’s former workers could have had some funds over the Christmas holidays. The Cabinet agrees that it will be unconscionable to use taxpayers’ money to pay LIAT’s staff 100 per cent of the monies owed to them, even when the governments liability was no more than 34 per cent of the value of LIAT’s ownership.”
The government said their offer is a “compassionate payment” since they have no obligation to pay LIAT staff and the value of shares is zero dollars.
At the post cabinet media briefing today, Information Minister Melford Nicholas clarified that the government’s statement should not be taken as an indication that it is not willing to meet with unions representing former LIAT workers.
“We can have a discussion to come to further clarification. But those discussions will not and must not be misconstrued as negotiations. We are not in any negotiations,” he said.
“The government’s legal position is that LIAT as we know it is bankrupt. The shares value zero dollars. So to the extent that the government was a shareholders and had an obligation, the fact that the company is worth nothing, the government’s liability has come to nothing.”
Nicholas said the government is committed to working with former LIAT staff since they are members of the community.