Union urges Barbados Gov’t to pay Severance to ex-LIAT Workers


SOURCE: Barbados Today

This country’s largest public sector trade union is calling on the Government to follow St Lucia’s lead by settling the outstanding severance payments of its nationals who were terminated by LIAT more than two years ago.

On Tuesday, St Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip Pierre told Parliament that Cabinet had approved some EC$4.4 million (US$1.6 million) to pay the severance of all former St Lucian non-management employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd.

In response, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) which represents the former Barbadian pilots appealed to the Government to look beyond its lack of legal obligation to the employees and pay them given their significant contribution to intra-Caribbean travel and the regional integration movement.

“We appeal to the Government of Barbados as a shareholder of a regional airline that served us so well throughout the Caribbean to come forward and save these people.

That is what we would ask. We would want the Government to see it as the right thing to do,” urged the union’s Deputy General Secretary Wayne Walrond in an interview with Barbados TODAY.

Barbadian employees of the beleaguered regional airline have accused the Government of abandoning them after providing a $2 000 one-off gift last year and an additional advancement of $2 000 per month for one year. That one-year period has expired.

Walrond insisted that the Government must stop treating the former workers as subjects for whom it is doing a favour.

“This St Lucia move is very good and I hope that the Barbados Government comes to the aid of the Barbadian pilots and does a similar thing because it has to go past the humanitarian approach.

If these guys have been contributing to intra-regional travel in a way that was very important for both business and pleasure, I think the response can’t just be one of seemingly doing a favour on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

“I think the St Lucia response sets the backdrop to really rescue these workers. If it can’t be a CARICOM [Caribbean Community] approach, we would like that all the jurisdictions come forward and make a commitment to settle for each nationality where pilots have been impacted by the non-payment of severance.”

The senior NUPW executive also revisited the suffering that the LIAT pilots, and the employees, in general, were experiencing.

“It is very traumatic. I can tell you I know they have been in pain and there is much agony.

I know it is a very difficult situation and many of them have not been working since being terminated,” Walrond said.

A former employee of the Antigua-based carrier, who spoke on condition of anonymity, indicated that while the Barbadians were happy for their former colleagues in St Lucia, they were hoping to be “treated with the same respect that the St Lucia government has treated their people”.

“We have heard nothing further from our Government here in Barbados since last year. They have ignored us completely.

The 100-day meeting that we were supposed to have never took place. Unfortunately, we have not received any information in terms of the administrative process. We are just flat-out ignored.

“The administrator in Antigua had 120 days to submit a report to the court there in Antigua, and as far as I know, no report has been put forward.

We have requested information here, we pleaded with the Government to intervene, and at this time we have had no further word on where we stand and have not heard back on any communication sent to the Barbados Government,” the Barbadian complained during an interview with Barbados TODAY.

He said the upcoming Yuletide season would be the third Christmas with no good news.

“It’s callous and uncaring,” the former LIAT employee declared.

In announcing the decision of his government, which is a LIAT shareholder, Prime Minister Pierre said the move to finally resolve the outstanding severance was a demonstration of his administration’s commitment to the welfare of all workers in the country.

“We are currently in discussions with the former management staff, including pilots, to arrive at an acceptable settlement,” he stated, noting that Cabinet had endorsed the severance payment decision after discussions with the representatives of the workers, the National Workers Union, and the non-union and unionised workers at LIAT.


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