Over 100 ex-LIAT employees awaiting severance and other entitlements have apparently accepted the “compassionate” payment offer made by the Antigua and Barbuda government in December.
Minister Lennox Weston made the disclosure on Observer’s “Big Issues” show on Sunday, claiming more workers are also willing to sign but that unions negotiating on their behalf have advised against it.
“The individuals are ready to sign; if they were to come in individually and sign, we would have over 400 of them signing already,” Weston, who represents the Antigua and Barbuda government’s interest on the LIAT board, said.
The government released a statement in late December indicating that it was providing EC $2 million to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the “compassionate payout” to locally based former employees of the regional carrier which is currently in administration.
The statement, issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, said the funds were being made available for distribution via those tasked with wrapping up the airline’s affairs.
It said the money was “a compassionate payment, intended to bring some Christmas cheer to those who have been unable to earn incomes since they were severed” and that “the payment is limited to former LIAT workers resident in Antigua and Barbuda.”
Union leaders have argued that workers would be waiving their rights to other monies owed if they accept the offer.
Weston said that was misleading. “From a straight accounting point of view, there will not be much after LIAT is liquidated, for the workers to receive. If they think they are signing away some hard-earned money that they would get from liquidation, it is a fallacy. This is why I am saying, if it is liquidated and they see what they get, then they will see that the offer from the government is compassionate,” Weston said.
Former LIAT workers have been fighting for almost two years since the airline collapsed to get more than EC $120 million owed in severance and other benefits.
The government has made several offers to cover at least 50 per cent of the severance and union officials have rejected each offer.
General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union David Massiah recently accused the government of “raping the workers’ rights”. He said some employees who had accepted the compassionate offer had received just a fraction of the amount they were expecting.
Owned by a handful of Caribbean shareholder governments, LIAT 1974 Ltd had provided crucial regional connectivity for decades, but folded when the COVID pandemic exacerbated its long-standing financial woes.
A new downsized incarnation of the carrier has been operating a reduced schedule with a limited workforce since November 2020.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the future of the company, Weston added that LIAT’s administrator Cleveland Seaforth is currently in talks with three potential investors.
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The Minister is being misleading again. While he says that close to 100 workers have accepted the government’s “compassionate” offer what he strangely has left out is that double that amount (close to 200) outright rejected the offer. A resounding rejection of the government’s “compassionate” offer.
Furthermore, all who accepted this offer out of pure financial desperation, were also required to sign away their rights to any future claims of severance. By the way, these workers only received 16.5% of their total legally entitled cash entitlement. The rest 83.5% of their severance gone a gwassa! Never to be seen again as far as the A&B government is concerned.
The Minister and his boss the PM keep saying that the workers will get little to nothing if the airline is liquidated. If that is the case why then must workers sign away any rights or little money that they may get out of liquidation? Why are workers being squeezed and choked for a little money that they might get if the airline is liquidated? This is their money by law Mr Minister. Why are you denying them even that ?? Why Mr Minister why?? This your government’s idea of compassion? Wow!
Who is misleading here? The workers did not sign away 83.5% of their severance. The signed a deal to receive 50% of their severance. Some in cash, some in bonds and some in land. What they got the other day was part of the cash component
Sideline, I hope you’re getting paid enough to talk shit.
Well said Rasiley. No more no less. Right on point.
´The government has NO LEGAL OBLIGATION to pay the workers. So why not accept something rather than nothing?
Seems like the union wanted the government to give them the money so that the union could get a percentage of the amount paid to workers.
ABWU is a joke and playing politics with a serious belly gripe.
If the Government has no legal obligation to pay LIAT workers their severance why then is the so-called caring Government trying to prevent those same suffering workers from getting a red cent out of the liquidation of LIAT?? Money that is legally the workers’ not the Government’s!
If the basis for your and the Government’s argument is legality why then is the Government actively trying to get these workers to sign away their rights to money that is legally theirs??
On Election Day, the workers, their friends and families will not forget!!! This the Government can count on and won’t require any debate between us…
Sound like Gaston just lose 200 x 5 voters and maybe 50 out of the 100 who took the pittance for whatever reason. The people will have the final say.
Don’t you think if the ABWU have a strong case they would take the matter to the Courts already? It’s usual for them to grandstand and play their duttie political games cause their party is not in power. Asked the same Union how many employees are still have not been paid their severance when companies liquidates? Some of us does have excellent memories and wouldn’t be fool again and again. No single government in their right mind would take tax payers money and pay the full severance. Wadadli PM is not a foo foo leader.
And you believe people are single topic voters. Only the LIAT issue matters to them. And only Antigua government owes LIAT and is responsible for the severance? That is what you guys would love people to believe. But you guys will be surprised. They said the same thing about voting in Barbados. And all they got in Barbados was a small loan. Somehting they have to payback to the government
If UPP was in power, Barbados and St. Vincent would have long time executed the liquidation of LIAT and that would have been even worse for the former LIAT workers. And even worse for Antigua and Barbuda’s economy. None would get a cent for years to come, until the receiver is finish selling Asset and distributing funds. And that will take many years. Stanford Liquidation, which is still in progress, started in 2009. And only in 2019 did part of the staff see their final penny. Others are told that the company they work for has no assets. So, no severance pays for them. And everyone knows the Stanford companies were forced into liquidation, because the owner was arrested. Assets are tangible for all to see in this country. LIAT on the otherhand was bankcrupt. Could not pay its bills.
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