‘Gov’t acted too late on severance for LIAT workers’


BARBADOS TODAY: The travesty of justice that is the plight of hundreds of former workers of LIAT drags into 2022, two years after it began to fester. It was triggered in no small part by Barbados’ abrupt withdrawal from a vital but cashstrapped air carrier and fellow shareholder Antigua and Barbuda’s tone-deaf intransigence to these men and women who kept it in the air.

Since April 2020, over 90 per cent of LIAT’s staff have been laid off.

Three months later, the bankrupt airline landed in the hands of the Antiguan High Court which appointed an administrator, mandated the airline’s re-organisation and stayed all proceedings for the company’s liquidation.

Another three months later, the staff was made redundant. Pilots, flight attendants, engineers, ground-support personnel and more were sent home without the severance money to which they are legally and morally entitled.

Salaries and severance entitlements were said to be in excess of over 120 million dollars. They received nothing – not even the empathy, action and diligence of governments that are elected and mandated to uphold and defend workers’ rights, justice and equity.

These empty-handed workers with mortgages to pay and families to support made a desperate plea to the shareholder governments to address their plight.

None was forthcoming.

In May 2021, the Mia Mottley administration provided to Barbadian ex-workers a one-off gift of $2,000 and an advance of $2,000 per month to be recovered from any eventual severance settlement.

Yet again, the former workers approached their former employer seeking to secure what they had earned over the years.

The Gaston Browne administration in St John’s which took over sole control of LIAT then offered their own nationals a one-time “compassionate payment” offer of half their severance in cash, bonds and land. Then late last year it made available two million dollars of the cash portion to the airline’s receiver to distribute to them.

The unions representing the ex-employees have branded the two million dollar payout as Government’s attempts towards “seeking to bribe employees into accepting whatever it has placed on the table with respect to the employees’ entitlements”.

As the new year turned, the chairman of the Leeward Island Pilots Association, Patterson Thompson, disclosed that another last-ditch plea was made to Barbados for an emergency meeting with the other shareholders to conclude a severance pay package for all terminated employees.

The workers, he said, were at their wits’ end.

Thompson told Barbados TODAY: “We are still struggling. All the LIAT workers are 21 months into having no severance at all, no end in sight to the plight. And it is a very difficult time to live. We are struggling. We have no money to retool, we have no money to pay bills, there is no job on the horizon for us, so we are three times worse over than most people.”

To add insult to injury, advertisements this week surfaced in some newspapers across the Eastern Caribbean of job vacancies for “LIAT 2020 Limited”, the successor to LIAT 1974 Ltd.

There are places for a chief executive officer, director of flight operations, chief pilot, captains, flight officers, and flight attendants. The entire range of an airline’s maintenance, engineering, aircraft engineers, ground operations, supervisory and logistical roles was advertised.

The Antigua junior finance minister Lennox Weston confirmed in the media that the ads are authentic. He went on to reveal that LIAT 2020 Limited is expected to fly by June as talks with possible investors continue.

He told Observer Radio Antigua: “We are still in the final stages of negotiations with potential investors. I want to say though that, based on our feasibility studies, if needs be the Antiguan government can finance this airline by itself.”

But what of the former workers who have not received their just due, the ones who actually built this island-hopping carrier.

Weston said if LIAT 1974 Ltd fails to get the investment required then it would be dissolved and the benefits for the workers will be paid from the sale of its assets.

The Antiguan minister added that the best bet for the staff is to accept the government’s offer of a “compassionate” settlement of 50 per cent, payable in cash, lands and bonds.

He declared: “The government has a compassionate offer that is open right now so my recommendation is to take it, and then they should fight for the additional that will come from LIAT dissolution if that happens.

That to me would be the wisest thing to do.”

If this is the attitude to LIAT’s original workers, one wonders what prospects exist for future ones.

It is a shame and disgrace that LIAT’s former employees – skilled and trained Caribbean people in a region of endemic high unemployment – could only be subjected to such disdain from governments that could not sit at the table and act in the service of regional integration and the interest of their citizens.

After years of service, these workers have found themselves on the breadline without the financial buffer they are due by law. But they are somehow expected to get on with their lives.

Look past the knee-jerk derision of the Leave Island Any Time carrier.

The truth is of a carrier that reached the top of one-time performance in the months before ego, brinkmanship, parochialism and political posturing killed it. Look at the mess of airline schedules that remains – with airfares not a penny less than promised. Talk, on the other hand, is plentiful. And cheap.

Justice does not require more rhetoric and recrimination. It certainly must not merely be done but be seen to be done.

For what right has any worker to expect fairness and equity when even a former employer – the lawgiver of the land and guardian of rights – so cavalierly abrogates its obligations to its former workers?

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  1. The Government cannot use my tax money to pay Liat workers – Antigua didn’t own Liat. BARBADOS BENEFITTED THE MOST FROM LIAT IN THE LAST 10-15 YEARS- SO WHY ANTIGUA MUST PAY THEM THE MOST?

    • You are one mean person. These workers are only asking for what the law gives them. Why should they be treated so badly as if they were asking for something they are not entitled to? Selfish person, you are. I hope you never land in the same situation these workers are presently in as you will feel the real pain of financial suffering.

      • So should the Government pay Stanford’s former workers, HMB formers workers, former Bargain Center workers and those of the many company that went belly up too?

  2. Are Liat workers the first employees to loose their jobs and severance when their employer went bankrupt? My friends, take what you can get as the entity that owes you have no money to pay you. The best hope is that you find another job, accept the offer, or apply for one of the jobs Liat is advertising. Or you can take the issue to court. Maybe all of the shareholder governments should get together and reach a settlement.

    • DC, if they don’t have money, how come they hiring all these new employees. The airline is not making any money. This has been the case for a long time. The other islands decide to cut their loses, Antigua should have done the same, liquidate and pay the workers. All of you who said they shouldn’t get paid. Put yourself in their shoes. Y’all must think about others and not just yourselves. Y’all better know it can happen to anyone of you. Karma is real and Gaston and the entire cabinet wicked. They have more than enough to take care of their families. The Antiguan government horrible, horrible, horrible.

      • @Level head. Yeah your name says it all lol lol

        You can pay them with YOUR money since you are not “wicked” lol

  3. Man vice Mia Mottley dash in dem fierce “a one-off gift of $2,000” and they have to PAY IT BACK if they get any other settlement.

    $2,000 weak ass Bajan dollars (not even EC, US or GBP)

  4. The sad history of employment in Antigua for the past two decades. I guest there will never another VC Bird who put workers before self. What has become of the former workers of Half Moon Bay Hotel, has they received their money yet?

  5. Why would we wish that the workers don’t get their severance?

    The government use tax payers money all the time when it is convenient for them.
    To purchase cinema thats not functioning
    To purchase ham and turkey and
    💰 for votes.

    We need to stop thinking and acting selfish .

    • If it’s so true? Why the people who lost their jobs under bankruptcy whilst the UPPITES was in governance have not their money’s as yet? Why do you hypocrites believe all Wadadlians are idiots and are suffering from Amnesia? Play dis duttie political games fuel by Politrickians is just fooling the people. That’s why these opposition parties don’t stay long in power. You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the times. Just be honest and forthright and it will serve you better in the long run.

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