The Barbadian former LIAT pilot who has been leading the fight for terminated employees to get monies owed to them is suing Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne for defamation.
An upset Neil Cave claimed that Browne made defamatory statements and tarnished his reputation while speaking on his weekend radio show in Antigua recently. After making certain statements about Cave, Browne said he would not support the pilot returning to a revived LIAT and, in fact, if the Government of Barbados “tried to get him back in there, we are going to protest”.
On Monday, Cave said Browne’s remarks were a personal attack on him and his “good name” because he dared to speak out about the “injustices” going on at the Antigua-based company.
The Barbadian pilot disclosed that he would be filing a lawsuit in the court in St John’s shortly, asking for an undisclosed sum of damages.
“I have been defamed. The bottom line is I have spoken to others who have been supporting me, and I am looking at this time at filing a lawsuit against Mr Browne for his comments. We will, at the moment, proceed in that direction,” Cave told Barbados TODAY.
“It is a very unfair situation. I realise it’s an uphill battle and I will continue to fight and I will not be bullied by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and I will not be intimidated by his schoolboy bully tactics.”
The ex-LIAT pilot also declared that he would “never in his wildest dreams” return to the regional airline once Prime Minister Browne remained involved.
“I have no intention, and you couldn’t pay me enough money, to go back into any LIAT that Gaston Browne has anything to do with because I know what that comes with from experience,” Cave said, further charging that the Antiguan leader’s “disposition [and] his attitude have created a lot of problems with LIAT”.
“I think that if he was not involved and a lot of rhetoric was not the way it was at the beginning of this crisis, LIAT would very much be intact today,” he added.
“So if other islands are going to go ahead and invest their taxpayers’ money into an operation like that, unless there are changes in the management and the interference does not change, you are going to be right back to square one with an inferior product, no positive changes regarding air transport and a plethora of other issues.”
Stressing that it was not just non-payment of severance and other outstanding monies that former LIAT staffers were disgruntled about, Cave pointed to a history of “injustices” at the company.
Among a long list of grievances he identified were a health and safety matter now before the law courts in Antigua, and an outstanding pension payment for pilots of EC$5.7 million (BS$4.3 million) which was part of a EC$17.5 million (BDS$13.1 million) settlement dating back to 2017.
“When we got to court in 2020 regarding that money, conveniently the legislation in Antigua was changed, and a stay was imposed to block us from proceeding and having the trial. The court has since found the legislation to be unconstitutional. The Antigua government has challenged the ruling and we are now waiting to hear the appeal court’s decision on it,” the former workers’ advocate stated, adding that the LIAT administrator has said he would get that money for the pilots.
“The next contentious issue is we have been sent home without being paid our last month’s salary, severance, vacation pay, or lieu of notice pay. Imagine, the pension that you are in court for, the last payment of that pension was deducted out of our money and it was never paid into anything,” Cave added.
Last week, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves told the closing press conference of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government in Suriname that several leaders, including Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, had agreed to seriously consider the resuscitation of LIAT.
However, Dr Gonsalves said discussions on compensation for the terminated staff were “inconclusive” and contended that while shareholder governments were not legally obligated to pay severance, they were considering their moral responsibility in resolving the outstanding issues. — Barbados TODAY