Barbados PM begs for ease for LIAT workers

Prime Minister Mia Mottley is using the weight of her office to urge financial institutions to give indebted, cash-strapped, former LIAT workers a break on their loan repayments.

This has been revealed in correspondence from Prime Minister Mottley to the Barbados Co-operative and Credit Union League (BCCUL) president
Hally Haynes.

In the letter issued last month, which she asked him to share with the country’s 30 affiliate credit unions, Mottley asked that the indigenous financial institutions provide the ex-workers with a moratorium on their loan repayments or possible debt relief.

Mottley said she was making the request on behalf of the former employees of LIAT 1974 Ltd.

“As you are aware, COVID-19 has impacted heavily on workers across the world and most severely on those in the aviation and tourism sectors.

“The LIAT staff is no different since when LIAT suspended its operations they completely lost their livelihood.

The indebtedness to your member organisations is not because of an unwillingness to pay but because of an inability to pay,” the island’s political leader noted.

According to Mottley’s request for leniency, she asked the BCCUL president: “You may be aware that my Government has established a programme to make advances of $2 000 per month to the former employees of LIAT for a period of 12 months in the first instance to assist with meeting basic needs.”

Stressing that the $2 000 monthly help was not enough to allow the former workers to meet their financial commitments, she asked that the credit union movement “exercise the prerogative of mercy to these employees and provide further moratoria and if at all possible, debt relief” to the former airline workers.

The Prime Minister added: “I am confident that the Barbadian economy will rebound, and these persons will be able to resume meeting debt payments due to your credit unions … In the interim it is important for us to be our brother’s keeper.”

In response to the Prime Minister’s request, Secretary of the League Susan Fitt wrote the island’s 30 credit unions this week alerting them to the Mottley’s request of the movement and asking them to give it
due consideration.

“We advise that even though we are sharing this correspondence as requested by the Prime Minister, we are very mindful of the fact that each credit union has to make its own determination in this matter, based on its own peculiar set of circumstances,” Fitt told the credit union leaders.

The former LIAT workers have been in financial limbo for over a year, having been denied severance and some other payments due to them from the Antigua-based carrier which was placed in administration
by the Gaston Browne government.

Former LIAT pilot Neil Cave, who has been spearheading the group’s struggle for severance and other entitlements, said the financial assistance offered by the Barbados government last month would help them avoid “going further into the abyss”.

Just under 100 Barbadian employees, who were among other Caribbean colleagues placed on the breadline by the collapsed regional air carrier, were each expected to start receiving a one-off gift of $2,000 and a $2000 monthly payment for a specified period, which the workers are expected to repay from their severance payments.

The Antigua Government has also been accused by the workers of introducing legislation that prevented them from seeking redress in the Antigua courts.

The former staff have, however, filed a constitutional motion in Antigua which is yet to be adjudicated. — Barbados TODAY

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