CMC — The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union, ABWU, wants the court-appointed administrator for the bankrupt regional airline, LIAT (1974) Limited, Cleveland Seaforth, to provide the public with an update on the future direction of the company.
ABWU General Secretary David Massiah made the call amid on going efforts to secure severance payments for the employees of the airline that entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent & the Grenadines, and while the Barbados and St Lucia governments have made available funds to cover the three-year outstanding debt to the workers in their countries, that has not been the case with employees in the other islands.
Massiah, speaking on Observer Radio in Antigua said “it is troubling to us in the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union that we continue to call on the Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda (Gaston Browne) to ensure that Seaforth, the LIAT administrator, at least declare to the public on the yielding of his administration over the last three years.”
“The administrator, at least declare to the general public on the yielding of his administration that has gone over three years (and) … that was supposed to take 120 days.
And so we denounce this sort of silence or dismissal by the government and the administrator that to date we have not been in a position to receive some sort of understanding as to how things can be moving forward,” the union leader said.
Massiah said he was calling on Seaforth “to clearly disclose to us what are the what are the situations, where we are, so people have an understanding, because the people of LIAT that have been working are entitled to their rights, their severance are protected by international convention”.
Regional trade unions say their members are owed millions of dollars in severance pay and other benefits.
Antigua & Barbuda has since established LIAT 2020, which operates a limited number of flights across the region.
Earlier this month, St Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minster Ralph Gonsalves said he was awaiting information from Caribbean Development Bank, CDB, “for a new LIAT” to be formed.
Gonsalves said he suggested to the CDB a few weeks ago that their estimate for starting the new airline was “a little on the lower side, knowing what we went through when we did the re-fleeting of LIAT”.
In 2013, CDB provided loans totalling US$65 million to the four shareholder governments of LIAT to assist with the purchase of aircraft in the context of a fleet modernisation project.
Massiah told radio listeners that “from the union’s standpoint, it is interesting, and it must be known clearly that the Antigua and Barbuda Worker’s Union supports any resuscitation of a real, viable air travel transport in the Caribbean region and clearly this will only be achieved with the assistance and involvement of the workers as well.
“But the clear indication for us is that, while the governments and leaders might be advocating for LIAT 2020, the issue of the former workers is still a very important part that has to be discussed and finalised,” Massiah said.
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