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DOMINICA

PM urges resolution to pay dispute involving former LIAT workers

Published:Friday | August 19, 2022 | 12:09 AM

ROSEAU (CMC):

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wants a “humanitarian” resolution to the ongoing pay dispute involving former employees of the cash-strapped Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT 1974 Limited.

LIAT, which is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), owes millions of dollars to its former employees, including pilots, who, through their unions, have been demanding the payments owed.

The unions say they are disappointed that their shareholder governments have not addressed severance payments to the former workers, even as the airline operates a reduced schedule since November 2020.

“The issue of the payment of severance pay is a matter of the law but we believe that some form of compromise should occur. That’s our personal opinion. It is not the position of the entire shareholders of LIAT, but our personal position,” Skerrit said, speaking on the state-owned DBS radio.

“Something has to happen and I am hoping that we can find a way of addressing it at some point, especially during the discussions taking place for a new entity. But this will have to be dealt with by individual governments and I am not in a position to indicate what position each government should take.

“But I believe that we should find a solution. I know some governments have made some proposals to some of the unions. I believe that all of us in it must come to a point of compromise.

“We will have to look at the laws in the respective countries and I don’t want to speak about the issue of the law, I am speaking purely from a humanitarian standpoint,” Skerrit said.

Earlier this week, the general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), David Massiah, said he would continue efforts to have a meeting with Cleveland Seaforth, the court-appointed administrator for the cash-strapped regional airline.

He said among the issues to be discussed will be the decision by the shareholder governments to liquidate the company that owes millions of dollars to former employees who were dismissed last year.

EXPLAIN WHAT LIQUIDATION MEAN

Massiah said that the administrator must explain to the union what the liquidation means to the former and present employees of the airline, in addition to the way forward.

Last month, regional leaders met to discuss the situation regarding air transportation in the Caribbean amid concerns that both regional and international travellers are finding it very expensive and difficult to commute.

Meanwhile, president of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Gene Leon, speaking on Tuesday during a news conference to launch the 53rd general meeting of the bank to be held in St Lucia in June next year, said while he does not have specific advice for regional governments regarding LIAT, he was willing to offer some advice going forward on plans for improving air and sea transportation in the region.

“If I can offer any advice to governments it would be let us work together to agree on a goal that can address the challenge of connectivity in all of its lines and let us create the investment opportunities and that’s both the activity and the financing that will allow us to overcome the transportation issues that we face in the region.

“It is not impossible, we need to get out of the impossibility trap that nothing is possible. Everything is possible, we just have to be creative enough and if we do that then we are committed to finding solutions. I think we can find solutions,” Leon added.