Terminated LIAT pilot files class action suit against Antigua and Barbuda government

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A terminated Barbadian LIAT pilot has now filed a class action suit against the government in Antigua and Barbuda where the collapsed airline is based.

The constitutional motion filed last week Wednesday, but only acknowledged today in writing by the state, is challenging the constitutionality of the recently amended Companies Act which prohibits anyone from suing the government over any claims against LIAT.

The motion, lodged by Barbadian Captain Neil Cave on behalf of nine other current or former LIAT pilots, is asking the Antigua and Barbuda High Court to declare that newly-amended Act unconstitutional.

The claimants, who have named the Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda as the only defendant want the court to order that they be awarded costs and/or other relief the court may deem just.

They are also requesting that the court declares that Section 564 (1) of the Companies (Amendment) Act No 17 of 2020, is in contravention of Section 15 (8) of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda to the extent that it purports to limit the claimants’ right to access the court for a determination of their civil claim against LIAT 1974 Limited which was filed in 2015 and was pending at the time the Act was enacted by Parliament.

In his affidavit, Captain Cave outlined four grounds on which relief is being sought.

One ground notes that Section 15 of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda guarantees a litigant access to the High Court and for the fair hearing of his matter within a reasonable time.

“In that light, Parliament does not have sweeping powers to pass legislation adversely affecting that right to access especially in circumstances which are not recognized by the Constitution,” he stated in another ground.

His sworn affidavit also argues that Section 564 (1) (a) of the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2020 is inconsistent with the Constitution and unlawful to the extent that it seeks to prevent the courts from hearing and determining the LIAT pilots’ claim, which has been pending before the Court in excess of five years.

The final ground declares that accordingly, the claimants are entitled to approach the High Court pursuant to Section 18 of the Constitution to obtain relief.

According to Captain Cave’s affidavit, the Constitutional motion arose from a matter on May 27, 2015 when the 10 pilots instituted a claim against their employer seeking certain declarations and orders regarding pension monies deposited in an Antigua bank and prior to that, into a CLICO International Life Insurance fund without the authority of the pilots’ union and “in clear breach” of the existing collective and other agreements.

The pilots contend that the pension monies ought to have been deposited under the rules of the LIAT (1974) Limited Staff Provident Fund 1989 and Trust Deed, dated 27 June 1990, arising out of a 1977 arbitration award.

The affidavit observes that with the collapse of CLICO, LIAT pilots lost over $5 million in monies “unlawfully” deposited into the CLICO fund by the airline.

The defence to the LIAT pilots’ claim, the senior Barbadian pilot said, was filed by the airline on December 14, 2016 more than one year and six months after the filing of the claim.

The LIAT pilots’ claim, Captain Cave added, was scheduled to be heard on August 11, 2020, but on the morning of that hearing, LIAT took a preliminary point that the trial could not continue since the company was now in the hands of an administrator appointed by the court by order dated July 24, 2020.

“That position was also echoed by the attorneys for the appointed administrator Mr Cleveland Seaforth who was also present,” he said in his sworn affidavit.

The affidavit also recalled that Prime Minister Gaston Browne had petitioned the court for an order of rehabilitation under the newly-amended Companies Act and was successful in getting it.

It added: “The essence of LIAT’s argument, endorsed by the Administrator, is that the petition filed by the Honourable Gaston Browne imposed an automatic stay on certain proceedings against LIAT, including the trial of the instant matter.  In contrast, it was submitted on behalf of the pilots that the focus of the July 24, 2020 order and of Section 564 of the Companies (Amendment) Act which provides for automatic stays, to prevent creditors enforcing against debtors and in particular, winding up or liquidating debtor companies when a petition is filed.”

The affidavit points out that the pilots in the High Court claim are not creditors of LIAT.  And in fact, it explained, the trial will determine whether they become judgment creditors. — Barbaos TODAY

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Go ahead guys in the end you will have a failed LIAT that has to go in liquidation and then see what you will get.

  2. FROM THE SIDELINE I hear you and what you are saying could be a possible outcome. However, you need to ask your friend Gaston Browne what is the position with all the investors he had lined up to invest in LIAT?

    • Tabor Tabor. Since when did Gaston said that he had investors lined up. He was always reporting on what the administrator said he was working on. And the latest report last Saturday on his radio program was that one investor was to come to Antigua for further meetings with the Adminstrator but due to Covid it was not yet possible.
      The Pilot are in my opinion just being badly advised.Liquidation of a company takes years and the only winner is the liquidator. We have seen it at the Stanford Liquidator it took over nine years. And that when the Stanford group had lots and lots of Assets. Liat has many preferential creditors CDB being the biggest. Antigua government is the only government trying to safe LIAT from liquidation. So if that goes, sorry for the employees. But nothing will be coming for quite a while. The Gaston Browne government made an offer of 50% of the severance debt to employees. If they are smart I would say better to have one bird in hand than 10 in the tree.

      • Sidelines: Gaston Browne did say.He had investors at the ready to invests into LIAT.Have you heard from the Nigerian.The one who owns Air Peace.What has become of him.I am aware he was indicted in the USA for money laundering and other charges.

  3. FROM THE SIDELINE if you cannot recall that Gaston said that several investors were waiting to invest in LIAT including an African investor, then perhaps you need to rely on the recording and archival inclination of your partner TENMAN. Where are these investors? Again, stop finding excuses for the government and in particular Gsston Browne.

    • Tabor what are your missing here. You said the PM had the investors lined up. Which is incorrect. The PM was reporting on what the administrator said he had lined up. That is totally different. LIAT is in Administration, so everything is going through the administrator. In fact in my opinion he should not be reporting anything. The administrator is in charge. So Tabor please do not try to spin it as you always do.

      • FROM THE SIDELINE are you getting senile or you are senile already. You yourself have criticized the Prime Minister for speaking out on LIAT instead of the court appointed Administrator, Cleaveland Seaforth, just as he has done with the Nigel Christian murder investigation. Mr. Seaforth has never spoke on the issue of any investors (or even if he did this came after the Prime Minister’s pronouncements). It was the Prime Minister who even spoke of an African investor who was interested in investing in LIAT. You are the one who needs to stop the spinning to make Gaston look good. It is sickeening. As I said before, you need to rely on your partner TENMAN for some information on this matter.

        • And you need to stop the spin. I have said the PM reported on what the Administrator told him. But you claim that the PM said he had investors waiting. Once again the PM was reporting on something that I believe the administrator should. And he did that again last Saturday. So once again Tabor English is not so difficult. He said that the Administrator said is not the same as he said that he has.
          You do not like when I pick up on your spin with the manner in which you use your words. Browne never said “I have investors lining up.” he said “the Administrator has Investors lined up.” Totally different thing. And you damn well know the difference.

  4. Why are they not suing Barbados? They were the largest shareholder. Liat has no assets and many creditors so what are they hoping to collect? Just think that if the Antiguan government is successful in turning around Liat, some of these pilots stand a chance of being rehired. Forcing Liat into liquidation and they collect zippo.

  5. FROM THE SIDELINE just an update to debunk your usual meritless statements, please look at the article on ANR of 10 August 2020 which indicates Gaston Browne disclosing an African investor willing to invest US$25 million into LIAT.

  6. Gaston has to understand that the incompetent Administrator who pays no bills, all phones were disconnected on Monday then he scrambled to pay them on Tuesday, is failing miserable. He was given 6 months to turn the company around, failed. Asked for 6 more and nothing concrete has been achieved except that he gets paid while staff goes on for months unpaid.

    Now he is threatening to fire those same staff who stood by LIAT all throughout these hard times.

    Will Gaston investigate why all the senior competent members of the LIAT team is leaving? The majority of those left back are the unemployable and those who are too important to leave.

    The waste of time uneducated DFO who thinks that running an airline is the same as flying a plane from Barbados to Antigua is dragging LIAT in the mud. The have no balls DME goes along to get along…..Liat is bleeding through it’s nose. The so called Schedule manager who ran home to Trinidad in March of last years and has not been back to Antigua since changes the schedule everyday and cancels flights more frequent tat APUA takes water. LIAT WILL NOT MAKE IT TILL JUNE.

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