By Orville Williams
As tensions between the government of Antigua and Barbuda and former LIAT employees continue to escalate, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has suggested the staff could receive their full compensation, starting by accepting the proposed offer. by its administration.
As more than 90 percent of the airline’s staff were temporarily and then permanently laid off in April 2020, they requested full severance pay and other entitlements, totaling nearly EC $ 120 million.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda partially responded to this call, offering staff a “compassionate payment” while maintaining no legal obligation to compensate as the company is currently under administration. .
The government has been back and forth with unions and other representatives of former LIAT staff over this compassionate offer – 50 percent of severance pay owed – but workers are adamant about it. fact that they deserve more, despite the poor financial situation of the Airline.
As part of their efforts to reclaim what they think is their duty, they also urged other shareholder governments – Barbados, Dominica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – to join their Antigua counterpart. and Barbuda to reach a collective agreement.
Just yesterday Patterson Thompson, president of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) and one of the affected employees, reiterated the request on behalf of his group and the broader ex-staff of LIAT.
“What I want [PM Browne] do for me is call the other three prime ministers, because I can’t reach Miss [Mia] Mottley until now. I would like the Prime Minister to use his position because he has always said that he and Miss Mottley have a good relationship, to call him for me and ask her what she can do for the remaining 50%, between her, [St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit]”Thompson appealed.
Prime Minister Browne then responded to Thompson’s call, as the two spoke on Observer AM, calling on former LIAT staff to accept his government’s offer with the promise of potentially receiving their full compensation via cooperation from other shareholders.
“I think we’ll be in a better position if [the former LIAT staff] if we accepted our offer… if we did not manage to settle our offer, what moral authority would I have to go talk to another prime minister?
“Solve our problem first, which will give me the kind of negotiating capacity that I could ask my colleagues to cooperate,” urged the prime minister.
So far, some former LIAT employees have received indications of support for their predicament from shareholder governments.
The Dominican prime minister assured residents of his country late last year that his government was looking at different options, including direct cash investments, to address some of the issues and help staff.
Also in June of this year, the former LIAT staff in Barbados received a one-time gift of $ 2,000 from the Mottley-led administration and were awaiting an additional stipend of $ 2,000 per month which had also been promised.
“I have already spoken to at least two prime ministers who have reportedly indicated that they are prepared to pay all of their citizens.
“So if [the former LIAT employees] accept our 50 percent and they get an additional 30/40 percent from the government of Barbados, maybe 10 percent from Dominica [and] 10 percent of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – and you may have a few other countries that are willing to sort out the liability of their staff – then they can hit that $ 120 million, ”said Prime Minister Browne.
Browne also reiterated that the offer is non-negotiable, telling ex-LIAT staff representatives to accept it or give it a try through legal means.
“This idea that they are going to be confrontational and argue with the government of Antigua and Barbuda for a higher compassionate offer is absolutely ridiculous.
“What is needed is that the different associations [and] the different unions must unite, properly represent the staff and stop arguing with the government which has gone the extra mile to provide a settlement when there is no legal liability.
“Our offer is greater than any legal judgment they could have obtained against the government and if we made you a better offer, what’s your point?” You are wasting our time … you accept either [the offer] or go to court. We are no longer negotiating with you, ”he said.