LIAT workers ‘shouldn’t get preferential treatment’


One credit unionist is not of the view that indebted, cash-strapped former LIAT workers are to be given any special treatment by the credit union movement as they continue to struggle to meet their loan obligations.

In fact, stopping short of suggesting that it would be discrimination for the former airline workers to get an ease and not other members, Ashton Turney said credit unions will respond to their members “with equity”.

He was responding to a recent Today’s BUSINESS report, which revealed that Prime Minister Mia Mottley had reached out to the Barbados Co-operative and Credit Union League (BCCUL) last month requesting that the indigenous financial institutions provide the ex-LIAT workers with a moratorium on their loan repayments, or possible debt relief.

Mottley, who said she was making the request on behalf of the former employees of LIAT 1974 Ltd., noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted heavily on workers across the world “and most severely on those in the aviation and tourism sectors”.

“The LIAT staff is no different since when LIAT suspended its operations they completely lost their livelihood.

The indebtedness to your member organisations is not because of an unwillingness to pay, but because of an inability to pay,” the Prime Minister said in the letter addressed to the BCCUL President Hally Haynes.

However, Turney, who has served on several credit union boards over more than two decades, told  Today’s BUSINESS the credit union movement was well aware of the current climate brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a short comment, he insisted that one group of individuals should not be given any special treatment, suggesting that other individuals in other sectors were also struggling to meet their debt obligations.

“The Prime Minister should be told that the credit union is a member’s institution and several of its members have undergone similar challenges and there can be no discrimination demonstrated by any credit union,” said Turney.

“The members are already aware of the climate and will respond to all members with equity,” he added, while making it clear that he was in no way speaking on behalf of any credit union.

Within weeks after the pandemic started to affect the island in March last year, credit unions and other financial institutions started to offer their members moratorium on loan payments initially for a period of six months.

Some institutions continued to offer a moratorium on a case-by-case basis, while others opted to continue for an additional six months.

Just under 100 Barbadian employees, who were among other Caribbean colleagues placed on the breadline by the collapsed regional air carrier, were each expected to start receiving a one-off gift of $2,000 and a $2,000 monthly payment for a year initially.

In her letter to the credit union movement, Mottley pointed out that the $2,000 monthly payment from Government was not enough to allow the former airline workers to meet all their financial commitments.

She therefore asked the credit union movement to “exercise the prerogative of mercy to these employees and provide further moratoria and if at all possible,  debt relief”.

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