One of the unions representing LIAT workers has placed the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Barbados and the other shareholder governments to settle the debts owed to all terminated staff.
And the Barbadian pilot in charge of that union has criticised the Mottley administration for a payout to severed Barbadian workers who are yet to receive their severance more than a year after they were dismissed by the Antigua-based carrier.
Speaking on Observer Radio in Antigua, president of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Patterson Thompson agreed with the Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s stance that the four shareholder governments are the ones to ensure the outstanding severance is paid.
“The four… and I agree with Prime Minister Browne on that,” declared Thompson. “The Barbados Labour Party is the party of Sir Grantley Adams. The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party is the party of VC Bird. The comrade wears red and I think Prime Minister Skerritt is also under the red banner. So I agree with him. It is up to them to try their best to make sure that this debt is paid.”
The LIALPA president took the Barbados Government to task for the level of compassionate pay it has given to the Barbadian nationals who worked for LIAT.
Thompson said: “We have a situation where Barbados, the 48 per cent shareholder, has paid just under 15 per cent of the employed population, a loan of $24,000. I am a Bajan and I am going to benefit from that. But I do not believe it is enough.
“You can’t have control of a company for 16 years…48 per cent…the chairmanship of a company and think that my bit is going to take care of the Bajans and those nationals who worked in Barbados. I don’t think that is a good look for us, especially when Barbados has been the leader in trying to get regional integration to go forward.
“But you see, political decisions always fall back on us. And some of the rhetoric coming out of Antigua may have offended certain people; and here we are left now with the 38 per cent shareholder now providing 50 per cent compassionate benefits for all the workers. So Mr Browne must be given credit for saying ‘I am willing to pay 50 per cent to all the workers.”
He said while he conceded that the governments of the region would be hard-pressed to raise all the outstanding money up front, it was his view that they should at least join together and match Browne’s plan of 50 per cent.
Thompson said: “What I expect from my leaders is a collaborative effort to solve the issue even if over a period of time. I don’t believe it is a good look for CARICOM and CARICOM integration if you cannot get together as four prime ministers and solve a problem.
“I understand the rhetoric but it is not about them, it is about us, it is about the workers; 636 on the breadline who have not received one penny in 18 months. This is not only affecting people financially but it is affecting them mentally.”
But the pilots’ representative did not spare the Antiguan leader from criticism over his accusing unions of stalling or refusing to accept his offer.
Thompson contended that what Browne has been “floating” is not an offer because it lacked clarity and details with respect to the cash, bonds and land.
He explained there is no breakdown in percentages or the like as to what each element entailed.
He further pointed out that the bonds could not be turned into cash immediately and the land offered would not be useful for LIAT employees living outside of Antigua.
He said even some former workers living in Antigua did not want the land. Thompson insisted that long-suffering ex-employees needed cash immediately.
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