Statement by the Hon Gaston BrowneOn the matter of compassionate assistance to the former employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd
This statement is issued in an effort, once again, to explain and clarify the position of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, regarding the former employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd.
First, the Antigua and Barbuda Government opposed the decision by the other principal shareholders in LIAT (1974) Ltd to collapse the airline, with no obligation to its employees and creditors. Our preference was to maintain the airline, recognising that it had a crucial role in providing necessary transportation to people of the region and that, without it, regional air transportation for both goods and services would decline to the detriment of tourism, commercial activity and the socialization of the Caribbean people.
Indeed, our fear in this regard, has turned out to be true as the traveling public can now attest.
Second, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, although it had no corporate or legal responsibility to any of the creditors or former employees of LIAT 1974 Ltd, decided to assume a “moral obligation” to provide compassionate assistance to the former employees of LIAT.
Our compassionate severance was offered system wide, on a non-discriminatory basis, affording national treatment to all LIAT workers, irrespective of their nationality, in keeping with the spirit of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Third, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda made this decision even though it owned only 32 percent of the shares in LIAT (1974) Ltd, and, therefore, should only have a “moral obligation” up to 32 percent to the former workers, who, indeed were employed by all the governments that comprised 100 per cent of the airline’s ownership.
Fourth, despite the dire economic and financial circumstance that resulted from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the scarcity of financial resources, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda decided to offer 50 per cent of what the LIAT employees reasonably might have expected as compensation, if the company had not been declared insolvent.
In other words, the Government decided to use monies and other resources that should have been spent on the needs of the entire population, such as improvement of roads and water supply, to provide compassionate assistance to the former LIAT employees. By any stretch of the imagination, this is a generous offer, recognizing always that no legal obligation of any kind falls to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, and certainly not for 100 percent of assistance to employees of a company, 68 per cent of which was owned by other Caricom members states.
Fifth, in reality if the principal shareholder governments had taken the view that all of them had a moral obligation to provide assistance to all the former LIAT employees, an offer could have been made, formulated to provide such assistance, according to the ownership shareholding in the company.
This cooperative approach which would have resulted in full settlement of staff severance payments was not pursued by the other shareholding governments, instead a domesticated option was employed ostensibly to limit their liabilities to the staff of LIAT.
LIAT (1974) Ltd was forcefully collapsed as insolvent, in spite of the dissenting view by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the recommendation for the establishment of a LIAT 2020 Ltd.
The Government of Barbados severance payment was raised by the Antigua Workers Union, and therefore, I am obliged to address it.
The Barbados government has decided to offer assistance to Barbadian employees only, in a sum it has solely determined in light of its own circumstances. In this regard, neither the Government of Barbados, nor any other shareholder government in LIAT (1974) Ltd, has acknowledged any obligation to the former workers, including those here in Antigua and Barbuda.
Consequently, the position of the Antigua Workers Union that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda should use taxpayers’ money to pay 100 percent of monies to LIAT (1974) Ltd employees and former employees to which they have no legal claim, and for which the Government of Antigua and Barbuda could only reasonably be responsible for 32 per cent, is both reckless, misleading and unhelpful.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, as an act of compassion and eminent reasonableness, continues to be committed to settling this matter directly with for the existing and former employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd, in their interest.
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Get to ***k out a clarence house.
We do not want to hear you.
I find that you antiguan are very unfair to the country leader when it comes to this issue of liat. Look at the feedback from other countries that have shared in liat. They are looking for their own people. Antigua and Barbuda only have 32% shared but willing to pay 50 % to all liat workers l mean all. I am calling out Barbados just it’s people
When was that compassionate severance given? I didn’t get any.
My compassionate amount worked out to be 23,000.00 cash of $176,000.00. This is about 13-14% get real Mr. PM
Of course I wasn’t going to accept that. Smh
Stop your bullcrap Gaston! All the wasted millions on election campaign,on Free concerts, wasted money paying to your minions who preach Garbage on point FM with 4& 5 paychecks ect.Those in your Government Runing their own Business Getting Fat Cheques more than the service they provide. You wanted LIAT Headquarters in Antigua you got it and now Running from your Responsibility to pay the workers..Go find all those Thieves at Customs,Go to transport board about the wasted money on Radio Advertising which is unnecessary.Just like the LIAT Workers I am still waiting to get my Social Security Benefits which is Due over a Year now..Should I do a one man Protess? It look like this is the only way social security Listen to the plight of people who work and put 25 yrs of payments into the system..Listen to our plight, Have some compassion..I Need my money..How long do I have to wait?
The Prime Minister has stated the rationale for his Government’s decision to provide assistance to the workers of LIAT 1974 Limited. The workers representatives have also stated their rationale for their refusal of that offer. Maybe this press release by our leader should have been released prior to today and the workers and their representatives may have been more receptive. We are one people and yes we have to do what’s best for us collectively. We have to trust but verify. Hopefully there is an amicable solution to this impasse and we will learn some valuable lessons in the process.
Of course, the Gaston haters would be critical of anything Gaston says even if it is giving away the entire treasury to the LIAT workers. But what the heck, why would we pay them any mind.
@ Gaston lovers (plural)
OK Gaston lover
You keep talking about “HATE” when anyone disagrees with how Gaston Browne is running the country @ From the Sideline.
Hate is an emotive word, and you always use it to explain Gaston Browne’s immense shortcomings (and there’s so so many); and HATE has no place or use when it comes to the downturn in Antigua’s economy.
The word you should be using “ACCOUNTABILITY”, never before have Antiguans witnessed 50 years of so many wasted opportunities under Birdism and Browneism to get things right in Antigua & Barbuda.
What a real shame that you continually hide behind the word HATE instead of ACCOUNTABILITY, when all Antiguans want is good governance.
Simple really …
I agree with Prime Minister Browne that the whole notion of severance for all the LIAT employees should have been a collaborative effort on the part of all the share holders governments. What is clear is that every man (country) is for himself and each shareholder government is taking it’s own approach to this issue, much like how they operate in Caricom (all of self). Many of the very same countries and their leaders are in talks with other regional carriers and have all but given up on LIAT. The other shareholder governments have literally thrown Antigua under the proverbial bus where LIAT is concerned and the Prime Minister need to stop playing “nice boy” with them. It is clear that there would never be a “shareholders approach” in dealing with this issue. Antigua need to bite the bullet and pay the workers their severance. Being the headquarters had its privileges and advantages but it also comes with responsibilities.
The Antiguan government should pay only Antigua former employees just like the other shareholder governments paid their country’s employees. This way the government will be able to give the Antiguans a better settlement.
I agree that the Antigua Govt should move with great haste to pay the severance of the Antiguan workers. St. Lucia and now Barbados have paid their nationals. Since LIAT was domiciled here in Antigua, the economy of Antigua and Barnuda would have derived the greayer benegit over the years anz therefore Antiga should shoulder a great responsibility to ensure that LIAT woekers receive their severance.
Strongly agree with you. Look out for your own people. Mr Gaston Browne, Barbados did it, so you do the same likewise feed your people first before you feed others. Some may say you selfish,.but Barbados did it and defend what they did.
“Being the headquarters had its privileges and advantages but it also comes with responsibilities”
EXACTLY!!! Barbados being the major shareholder of a bankrupt company pays no dividends. LIAT was primarily based in Antigua and employed in excess of 75% of its employees. Whilst Barbados held the majority shares Antigua by far derived the greatest economic benefits. Stop the perpetual bickering Mr PM and pay these employees who for DECADES worked their butts off to transport people throughout the region and bring tourists, passengers and untold economic benefits to this country
Where was this compassionate approach and response during the campaign. Sounds like trying to cover up, deflect blame and put oneself in a position to curry favor!!! A little too late after the hard stance!! There is more in the mortar than pestle!! SMH!!! This man NEVER does anything to benefit himself – something’s off here!! It’s not genuine!!!
I’ve been listening to this Liat 1974 Ltd. debate for some time, and try as I might, I still find it very difficult to understand why people are adamant that the GOVERNMENT OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA is OBLIGATED to pay 100% of severance payments for the former employees of Liat 1974 Ltd.
In fact, I firmly believe that if persons REMOVE the POLITICS from this entire scenario, and really ASSESS and ANALYZE the matter from a LEGAL and BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE, then they can come to NO OTHER CONCLUSIONS BUT that SUCH EXPECTATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT ARE WHOLLY UNREASONABLE AND UNREALISTIC.
It does not mean however that the government does not have some responsibility, albeit NOT A LEGAL ONE, but at the very least, A MORAL ONE.
After all, Liat 1974 Ltd. was a PRIVATE COMPANY, which was JOINTLY OWNED by several countries, including Antigua and Barbuda.
What Liat 1974 Ltd. was NOT, was a STATUTORY CORPORATION (or State Owned Enterprise – SOE) of Antigua and Barbuda (headquarters domiciled here or not), which would mean that if it failed then the government would be on the hook for ALL ITS OBLIGATIONS.
Further, it is my considered opinion, that to EXPECT the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to accept full responsibility for Liat’s former employees (whether just the Antiguans or ALL of them), is GROSSLY UNFAIR to the PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA.
When public sector employees (as well as Social Security pensioners and other beneficiaries) very often CANNOT BE PAID ON TIME, or other payments (such as overtime, allowances, gratuities, back pay) due to workers are so long overdue! Still, other public sector employees (and I don’t mean “ghost workers”) are denied benefits rightfully due them because somebody thinks they “are not eligible”!
Come on people, get real!!
I am NO FAN of Gaston Brown with his high-handedness, his arrogance, his brashness and downright rudeness. Nor of his minions and acolytes!
But I do believe that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has proposed a few reasonable offers to Liat’s former employees, which the employees, seemingly, on the advice of their Bargaining Agent, Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union – ABWU, had rejected out of hand. I can’t help but wonder if UPP was the governing administration, and made the same or similar offers to Liat’s former employees, whether the ABWU would have similarly rejected them!? 🤔
At this stage of our country’s age and development, I’m still at a loss as to why we allow politicians and their acolytes to so easily deceive us, to the point where we willingly throw away our ‘best opportunities’. 😑
Gaston, pay the Antiguans and when the other shareholder governments come on board you can talk. Do like Barbados, look after your own people. The other islands would never agree to pay Antiguans.
I wholehearted agree with you. This is nothing more than political banter. It makes for good political theater.
This was a jointly-publicly-owned entity similar to the ECCB. Some of the owners threw in the towel and walked away, while making other arrangements for airlift to and from their islands. The regional airlift needs are being met and capacity will increase as ticket prices moderate, and schedules improves.
New bankruptcy laws were hurriedly passed specifically for LIAT 1974. In bankruptcy cases there are classes of debt “secured’ and “unsecured” What does the hastily passed LIAT 1974 bankruptcy laws say about payments? And What do we have here? We don’t know but generally if a company goes into liquidation, all of its assets are distributed to its creditors based on a pre-determined priority order.
Secured creditors are first in line, as their claims over assets are often secured by collateral and a contract.
Some assets may have multiple liens placed upon them; in these cases, the first lien has priority over the second lien.
Unsecured creditors are divided between preferred and non-preferred, as certain unclaimed creditors like employees and tax agencies are given priority.
Shareholders are often last in line to receive proceeds with preferred stock shareholders getting better treatment than common stock shareholders.
If a company does not go into liquidation secured creditors are first on-line to receive maybe pennies on the dollar. everyone takes a knee cap. The company is recapitalized and move on.
That why I say this is nothing more than political banter. It makes for good political theater as the poor people foot the bill.
Not aware that liat 1974 owed any assets as all their planes were leased. The other shareholder governments will never agree to make contributions to Antiguan former employees. To much bad mind. Gaston, just payoff the Antiguan workers and leave the rest. You don’t have a legal liability to pay anybody.
This is just “political theater” LIAT2020, rather than resuscitating a failing airline or making debtors whole.
LIATs market share is being eaten up by new players in the market. It’s the “same-o, same-o:
an outdated inefficient operation, being subsided by poor people.
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