OBSERVER Newsco: The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) is appalled and dismayed that the unsettled issue of payment of owed entitlements to the terminated employees of the company was not discussed at the recently concluded virtual meeting of the regional prime ministers on Tuesday. CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR WHATSAPP GROUP FOR NEWS UPDATES.
The prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados, and St Vincent and the Grenadines held virtual talks aimed at agreeing to either revamp LIAT (1974) Ltd or create a new airline, but the issue of severance was not on the table
“We find it disgraceful that discussions on a new entity could be addressed with such urgency, while over six hundred former employees who continue to face harsh economic conditions have not been given equal attention or any attention at all,” LIALPA said in a statement on Sunday
But despite what appears to be a dismal outlook, LIALPA remains optimistic and hopeful that payment of the owed entitlements will be satisfactorily addressed at subsequent meetings of regional prime ministers.
“We have always advocated the importance of the airline for regional integration, tourism, and to regional economies,” LIALPA said, recalling that LIAT (1974) Ltd has made significant contributions to the relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters, and that the airline transported much-needed medical staff through the region in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic. “Yet, the four shareholder prime ministers found it fit to shut it down.”
And according to LIALPA, two years later, the shareholder prime ministers and other regional leaders have realised the necessity of a regional carrier or a new LIAT for some of the previously mentioned reasons.
The shareholder governments also agreed to engage the services of an aviation consultancy firm – as had been previously touted – to develop a long-term plan to ensure the sustainability of LIAT and the provision of affordable air transportation.
They are suggesting that perhaps these funds and efforts would be better used to relieve the plight of the former workers and their families.
“We strongly encourage the shareholder prime ministers and other regional leaders to emulate the Prime Minister of St Lucia the Honourable Philip Pierre in declaring in Parliament that he will pay all owed entitlements to former St. Lucian employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd,” the Pilots Association said.
Adding, “now that a second decision to liquidate is a reality again, when can the workers who have been without monies for the last two years and three months expect some relief, considering that this can be a long process?”
LIALPA said that the terminated employees find it crippling to survive under these dire and austere conditions, concluding, “We need relief now!”
Just last month, the government revealed that a proposal was on the table for LIAT’s expansion, with several operational changes intended to make the carrier more efficient.
These include applying minimum revenue guarantees, maintaining a reduced fleet of aircraft, and keeping “salaries, wages and other emoluments” low.
Hundreds of LIAT workers were terminated more than two years ago when the Covid pandemic exacerbated the airline’s long-standing financial woes by grounding it for several months. Many ex-staff have been in straightened financial circumstances since.
A downsized version of the carrier has been operating a limited schedule since November 2020.