Barbados-based LIAT staff to claim benefits


(Barbados TODAY)

While LIAT workers in Barbados are now able to start claiming unemployment benefits, one senior labour union official is suggesting that the future of workers at handling companies at the airport is still up in the air.

In fact, Deputy General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Dwaine Paul suggested that the relevant authorities were not giving the matter the same level of importance as they were giving the new 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp initiative.

Paul told a media conference on Thursday that coupled with issues still facing the LIAT workers, the BWU had its hands full with pending “adjustments” coming from the different handling companies at the airport in response to the downturn in air traffic.

He said while the union was “busy” trying to advance discussions in that regard, it was not getting the “proper engagement with the relevant stakeholders in the ministries”.

“We are asking those persons to please give the appropriate time so that these workers could have an understanding as to what exactly their futures are with these relevant companies. These discussions are just as critical as us having a stamp for people to be here for 12 months. We need to be able to treat to our local workers just as urgently,” said Paul.

Earlier, Barbados TODAY tried unsuccessfully to get comments from representatives of Caribbean Aircraft Handling, with one official indicating that it was the Ministry of Transport that had responsibility for such services and another indicating it was the Ministry of Tourism.

In relation to LIAT, Paul said while the Antigua and Barbuda government told staff and trade unions that staff would be paid 50 per cent of their wages for the month of July, he was concerned that there was no discussion to date with the administrator or any of the other shareholders on how the outstanding wages will be paid to the LIAT workers.

In addition to Antigua and Barbuda, other major shareholder governments are Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica.

Paul said more than 100 LIAT employees across the region were currently in “no man’s land” where they were still listed as employees of LIAT and on the roster to report for work, but are not being paid and “have not been paid for the last four months”.

Paul said in relation to the Barbados LIAT workers, “over the last two weeks or so the remaining staff members have been finally placed on lay-off and are now able to proceed to the National Insurance Scheme to make claims for unemployment benefits”

However, he indicated that additional assistance was to be extended to those workers.

“We have had a discussion with the Government of Barbados through the Prime Minister and her team as it relates to how best we can address the situation for the LIAT workers. The Government has committed that all of the current measures that have been put in place to mitigate the impact on workers across Barbados would also be made available to those LIAT workers. I must say, not only the LIAT base operation workers but the LIAT team of pilots and cabin crew who operate from here but are not taxpayers or members of the NIS in Barbados,” Paul explained.

He said he was anticipating an adjustment in American Airlines employment numbers in Barbados in the coming weeks as part of that airline’s move to trim staff numbers globally.