Regional trade unions representing former employees of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, say they rejected the latest offer by Caribbean shareholder governments to meet their financial obligations to the laid off workers.
The airline laid off an estimated 90 per cent of its staff last year as part of a restructuring exercise and resumed operations on a much smaller scale.
President of the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), Donald Rolle, said that the regional unions are united in seeking the millions of dollars owed to the workers and have rejected the latest offer from the shareholder governments.
“We had a meeting of regional trade unions that represent the members in the different islands and we have all concluded that we are preparing to write to the shareholder governments a joint communique that will express our position as it relates to the offer on table by the governments and shareholders,” Rolle said on the state-owned DBS radio.
“The offer on table which is to pay the LIAT workers, 50 per cent of their redundancy pay and there is a component that involves compensation by issuing of lands and bonds.
“But the unions around the Caribbean have sort of rejected that in its entirety, but we are in negotiations with the governments. We have a position and as it is now we are at opposite ends of the table,” Rolle said.
“I can say we are united as unions around the Caribbean…and that gives us some sort of solidarity in moving forward. Redundancy does not come by 50 per cent, the employer has to pay the employee what is due by law”.
He said emanating from the latest round of talks among the unions, “the consensus is we are demanding the 100 per cent (and) from the union’s stand point and perspective I am very hopeful, (but) that does not make it a reality,” Rolle said.
In June last year, the shareholder governments acknowledged that the Antigua-based LIAT, owed an estimated EC$94 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) in severance and holiday payment to its staff, but the court-appointed administrator, Cleveland Seaforth, has already indicated that the company would be unable to meet that payment.
“I am in discussions with prospective investors and some of them are prepared to address the matter of severance, but we are not at the stage yet where we can say when severance will be paid and the quantum of it,” he said in November last year.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Last year, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to Antigua & Barbuda for one EC dollar (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents).
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Browne, speaking on a radio programme in Antigua, said that LIAT, under administration, had returned an operational profit for the months of July and August and that there is also evidence that a leaner, more efficient LIAT can be profitable.