x-LIAT (Leeward Island Air Transport Services) workers will face another Christmas without their severance payment, 20 months after they were placed on the breadline.
And Chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Patterson Thompson is calling once more on former major LIAT shareholder governments led by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves to come to their aid.
The Gaston Browne administration has proposed to pay 50 per cent of the outstanding severance in cash, bonds and/or land, owed to flight attendants, engineers, pilots and other employees from Barbados and other countries, and have given them until the end of this month to respond to the offer.
However, the embattled ex-LIAT workers, through the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), have been pushing to have further negotiations as outlined in a request to the Cabinet Secretary in a letter dated December 10, 2021.
In its December 13, 2021 response, the Cabinet Office in Antigua and Barbuda said a request for further negotiation was “unreasonable”.
“The Cabinet reiterates that its offer of compassionate payment exceeds that of any other shareholder government at this time and that a request for further negotiations on the matter is unreasonable and unwarranted under the circumstances,” the letter said in part.
Antigua and Barbuda, a 34 per cent shareholder, has since taken over operation of the airline. Barbados with 49 per cent along with St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Grenada, make up the other major shareholding governments prior to its collapse in April last year.
LIALPA chairman told Barbados TODAY he was hoping that the unions representing the ex-LIAT workers would have a meeting next week with its members to look at various options and “what we can do”.
“If the government of Antigua is not going to allow any more negotiations and it is as though the proverbial door is closed, then we have to conference among ourselves and see what we are willing to do as a group. All options are on the table for sure when we sit down and look at what can we do,” he said.
Barbados TODAY also understands that Opposition Leader Harold Lovell was also seeking to meet with the beleaguered ex-LIAT employees to outline plans should he become Prime Minister in the next general election, which is constitutionally due in early 2023, but which is widely speculated would be held earlier.
It is also understood that the ABWU would be reaching out to Prime Minister Mottley and Gonsalves to see what assistance they would be able and willing to give to the former airline workers at this time.
Thompson said while he was “not interested in picking winners or losers”, all the former LIAT workers simply wanted was a solution to their plight.
He said he would appreciate if Prime Minister Mottley and Gonsalves could “at least signal to us” a willingness “to talk to us about a possibility of assisting us in the future”.
“I mean, LIAT was owned by Barbados as well with 49 per cent shares. We are human beings. We still have our bills to pay. We still have to retool. I still have my three kids and this is Christmas time and we have not heard anything from them,” he said.
“It is a stalemate but we are still hopeful, I am certainly appealing on behalf of all the workers that prime ministers Mottley and Gonsalves at least have a conversation with us to see what can be done in the future. I understand things are tight . . . but we haven’t had a salary in 20 months. These are very, very trying times,” he lamented.
Stating that the former LIAT workers were “out in the cold” and were facing “hard times”, the spokesman said it was “only fair” that they receive some assistance “some way, somehow”.
Following the collapse of the regional carrier, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica agreed to write off debts owed to them by LIAT.
In early June this year, close to 100 former Barbadian LIAT workers started receiving a promised $2,000 per month that would be repaid from any future severance payment.
This payment is to be valid for up to one year and could be terminated earlier once they are able to find employment before the end of that year. — Barbados TODAY