PM Browne Gets Meeting To Discuss His Proposals For LIAT

Prime Minister Gaston Browne

(Barbados Today)

Prime Minister Gaston Browne called on Bridgetown to meet in a last-ditch effort to save the regional airline from demise.

Browne, who was addressing members of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) in St John’s when he made the comments, also revealed that yesterday, he wrote the Prime Ministers of the two major stakeholders – Mia Mottley of Barbados and Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines – asking them to attend a final meeting to discuss his proposals for reorganizing LIAT.

“So, in a last-ditch effort, I have requested a meeting for next Monday, which I believe I will get, to look at the possible reorganizational plan. We should have that plan completed by Friday,” the Antigua and Barbuda prime minister announced.

Browne claimed that at the recent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Summit to discuss the broader issue of air connectivity in the region, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines were “hell-bent” on liquidating LIAT without being provoked.

He appealed to the trade union to back his plan to reorganize the company while telling them that liquidation as proposed by Bridgetown and Kingstown could leave them with nothing and unemployed.

“The fact is, they are not interested in starting a new LIAT. So in that sense, they are trying to also kill the brand. So, you can’t even argue that if there is a new LIAT that maybe the brand could be sold to a new LIAT for a few million dollars. Even though that may not necessarily cover a significant portion of your staff costs, at least you will get something for it. Those are discussions that they have failed to entertain,” the Antiguan leader told the ABWU.

In further seeking support for his plan to keep the LIAT brand alive under a restructured operation, Browne singled out Barbados as the shareholder which benefited greatest from the regional carrier but yet it was insisting on liquidation, an option Browne described as dangerous.

“The issue here is that LIAT would have moved in the region of about 700,000 individuals per year to Barbados…and when you look at the amounts that they charged for their head tax and even the spend in Barbados, I guarantee you that Barbados would have gotten the majority of the benefits of the operations of LIAT,” he stated.

“But yet they are trying to use their majority shareholding position to run rough shod over other shareholders, minority shareholders including Antigua and Barbuda,” Browne claimed.

Browne therefore outlined his plan to the union, but warned its members his solution would involve some pain.

“But you are better off having some pain rather than having parts of your body amputated. So for example, it requires a haircut, that is, for the reorganization to work. It requires a haircut by all creditors. So we are asking staff to take a 50 per cent haircut. We are asking the shareholder governments that are owed tens of millions of dollars to take a 100 per cent haircut, that is to write off all of their liabilities,” he declared.

Browne said he had also sent out “some feelers” to the other creditors, some of whom have shown an interest in cooperating to make sure “we can create a viable LIAT going forward.”

He suggested that if Antigua and Barbuda gets the support it requires for a restructured LIAT, there is hope for even those employees who would be laid off initially.

“Even though we downsized LIAT, as business picks up, you can always increase the staff complement. So even those who may not be re-employed immediately, they stand a chance of being re-employed based on experience, sometime in the future as the demand for air service, or transportation grows in  the coming years,” he added.

“And it will pick back up; but we all recognize that in the next year for sure, there will be, or continue to be a significant reduction in the demand for travel. And that is why LIAT may have to carry less assets, less staff in order to survive in the interim,” Browne told the meeting which sources close to the gathering told Barbados TODAY had no official representation by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) or the other trade unions in Antigua apart from ABWU.

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  1. The caption of this article, namely, “PM Browne gets Meeting to Discuss his Proposals for LIAT” is very misleading and in fact erroneous. Despite the caption, it is noted in the article, “So, in a last-ditch effort, I have requested a meeting for next Monday, which I believe I will get, to look at the possible reorganization plan.” Now, please tell me if the caption says that the Prime Minister gets meeting, how then in the same breath he is saying that he believes he will get the meeting. Similarly, I just saw an interview with Dr. Ralph Gonsalves the Prime Minister of St, Vincent and the Grenadines where he says that the shareholders of LIAT met on 27 June, 2020 to consider a report from the Board of Directors of LIAT (which he received on 23 June, 2020) which recommended the LIQUIDATION of LIAT. At the meeting on the 27 June, 2020 the major shareholders of LIAT i.e., Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados and St. Vincent were present. One of the four items on the agenda was the liquidation of LIAT. Dr. Gonsalves in his interview revealed that all the shareholders at the meeting agreed to the liquidation of LIAT. Now, if the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda agreed to the liquidation of LIAT at that meeting, why now is he making so much noise and is seeking for a meeting to discuss the reorganization plan for LIAT. The Prime Minister should have vehemently objected to the liquidation of LIAT then and propose to the meeting of his position to pursue the reorganization of LIAT. Was the Prime Minister tongue tied in the meeting with Mia and Ralph? That is where he should have raised hell with them and not to be now making noise after the horse has bolted from the stable (or a more apt analogy after LIAT took to the air for its last flight). Mr. Prime Minister you need to come to the nation and clear the air on LIAT because something is not right with what Ralph has said and what you have been saying. The nation awaits your clarification on this sad LIAT fiasco.

  2. My take on this whole LIAT saga is that this is an IMF conspiracy. Barbados as we know is under an IMF program and that means behind the scene the IMF runs the show. Barbados cannot take on anymore debt. They tried by selling their shares, but IMF would not let them agree to Antigua’s terms. So according to the IMF playbook if Antigua suffers, they too will soon be in an IMF program and before you know it IMF will have once again control over the entire Caribbean. So Mr. PM while you think you are fighting Mia and Ralph you are fighting the IMF. Why else would Mia at this time give up on LIAT when LIAT means so much for the Barbados economy. Barbados is like LIAT’s second hub. And the most profitable routes are run out of Barbados. That is where the numbers are. Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica don’t have the numbers. But PM Browne is putting them check mate with his latest offer. Because he took their argument that they don’t have any money that is why they want to liquidate LIAT and turn it around and say OK I got the money. And as shareholder I have the right to safe my investment at any cost. If they refuse he can take them to court and hold them responsible for his losses. I mean the only thing is they will have to surrender some if not all if their shares. It could be a hostile takeover. But no majority of shareholder can force other shareholders to accept losing their investment if they want to come up with the finances to safe the company. Mia and Ralph though Browne would never be able to bring up that amount of money in this Covid time when his government is faced with even greater issues. But like the UPP they under estimate Browne. UPP took years to solve ABIB. They could not close the WIC deal. All because they had no clue how to come up with the funds. Creative thinking outside the box is not part of their DNA. The only see problems and making everything a talk shop. With no action. That is why they will be in opposition for a very long time, until some brighter people take over. Not people Tabor who cannot think outside the box and when it comes to legal issues he is totally lost. He even want to take it up with Sir Gerald a well seasoned QC. But anyway. having heard and seen Browne’s strategy, I think Mia and Ralph will have no choice unless they want to fight this thing out in a Court of Law. Minority Shareholders do have rights. This LIAT saga is a very hard and expensive lessons how not to get involved with others in business for political reasons. Today they may share your vision tomorrow that may change. As I said Barbados is in an IMF program and has to play by their terms. First thing she had to do is lay-off thousands of workers. And then hire an expensive firm to tell her how to reorganize her economy. Makes you wonder if her people are that inept that they cannot come up with what Barbados need. Thank God for the men and women in the Gaston Browne administration. I trust them to take us through and out of this covid 19 pandemic with little damage if that much. UPP couldn’t even manage a little global economic crisis that never shut the country down. They ahd to run straight into the IMF. And even though they like to say that they never let one civil servant go, it was in the making and ready to be executed had they won the election of 2014. The IMF had them in a program call the Public Sector Transformation. They brought several persons here that worked out if the ministry of Finance lead by a St. Lucian Lady. Gale Archibald. The IMF funded this program to the tune of $10million and Gale worked hard on this. And actually they collaborated this program with the World Bank. HR professional were flown in to put systems in place as to how they would chose who to lay-off. Antigua had a problem that their was not one HR department in government. Staff are not evaluated on a periodical basis. Be if quarterly, semi annually or yearly. So that was to be put in place. But when Labour Party came to power to abandoned that program so fast and kicked Gale out the country. And that was a gripe that IMF has with the Labour Party. They thought they had Antigua in their grip but Labour Party spoiled it. Thank God cause who know where we would be today. Still in the arms of the IMF I suppose.

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