Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation

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Regional trade unions to meet on LIAT today

December 16, 2021

Trade union representatives representing former employees of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, are to meet in Antigua on Thursday to discuss several issues including outstanding severance payments to the workers.

President of the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), Donald Rolle, said that the meeting is being held even as the Antigua and Barbuda government warned that the unions have just one month to make up their minds about the latest 50 per cent compassionate payment offer it has made to the workers.

The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) has already urged the Gaston Browne government to enter into further discussions on the matter, even as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Lennox Weston, “we are not going to let this sit on the table until the new year. We are going to move on; we will follow the law”.

Rolle said the Caribbean unions representing the workers met recently and sent a letter to the secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda cabinet “calling for a continuation of dialogue since we felt that there are still much more to be discussed.

“The Antigua and Barbuda Cabinet secretary responded and is of the view that there isn’t much to be discussed since the Antiguan government had placed on the table the final offer,” he said, adding that the meeting is to allow the unions to “see what approach we may have to take depending on the outcome of the meeting which is scheduled for the 16th .

“Not sure who is going to represent the Antigua and Barbuda government at this point seeing that they haven’t accepted our offer, but nonetheless we are going to meet and we are going to press forward,” Rolle said.

Earlier this year, Rolle had said that the unions were united in seeking the millions of dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) owed to the workers and have rejected the latest offer from the shareholder governments.

The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Last year, 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.

Last month, Prime Minister Browne appealed to Caribbean trade unions to re-think their positions regarding the latest offer made to laid-off workers of the airline.

Browne said what is required is the cooperation of the unions, noting that “some union leaders…are making unreasonable demands, making demands in which they have no legal basis to do.

‘As I have said to the other unions if they really think they are owed 100 per cent of their severance and staff liabilities, go to court and prove it. If they can’t prove it then the governments are giving you a compassionate payment, take it and run.”

The airline had laid off an estimated 90 per cent of its staff last year as part of a restructuring exercise and has resumed operations on a much smaller scale.

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