LIAT union urges govts to pay severance as workers continue to suffer

One of the unions representing former LIAT workers has made a last-ditch impassioned plea to Barbados to summon an emergency meeting with other shareholder governments to conclude a severance pay package for all terminated employees.

Chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Patterson Thompson said Tuesday his union continues to wait for a response from the Barbados government to two letters requesting a meeting to discuss the plight of the workers who have been on the breadline for the past 21 months.

Thompson acknowledged that general elections slated for January 19 in Barbados would now further delay any chances of talks being held to conclude a plan to pay the struggling ex-LIAT employees their legal entitlements.

“But we are still struggling. All the LIAT workers are 21 months into having no severance at all; no end in sight to the plight. And it is a very difficult time to live,” he said.

“We are struggling. We have no money  to retool, we have no money to pay bills, there is no job on the horizon for us, so we are three times worse over than most people,” the union leader told Barbados TODAY.

Thompson argued that the severance pay issue was handled badly in the first place.

“It could have been handled better when the decision was made to shut down LIAT. The [shareholder] governments should have gotten together and had a plan to pay the severance, he suggested.

The LIALPA chairman dismissed any notion that an early resolution to the payout could be attributed to the decision by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne to place the St John’s-based airline under court-sanctioned administration.

He contended that in any case, the other shareholders Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica could have intervened and stopped the initiative by Antigua.

“And because prime ministers cannot talk to each other about LIAT, we continue to struggle. So I am just hoping and praying that after the elections that there can be a conversation with the prime ministers about LIAT, getting severance and all the entitlements owed to LIAT workers,” Thompson stated.

The leader of the pilots union is insisting that all nationalities of former employees ought to be compensated for what is rightfully theirs after “putting in their blood, sweat and tears” to a regional airline for as many as 40 years.

“Our severance should not be a political issue and it should not be a divisive one. We have given a lot to the region. People have given their whole life…42 years, 20 years, 30 years, 35 years; and we are still waiting,” he lamented.

Thompson said the offer by the Antigua government of a compassionate payment of half of the severance and the advance of $2,000 per month by Barbados to its nationals, have not gone far enough to satisfy the dire financial problems of the workers.

“The initiatives from the Barbados Government and the Antigua government do not deal with it conclusively. They do not deal with the situation long-term, and we need help,” he pleaded.

“Not only do we need help, we also would like to know what about the future of aviation in the Caribbean. We see other airlines operating in Barbados, homeporting in Barbados. That’s fantastic, good for them. But what about the Barbadians and other CARICOM nationals who lived in Barbados who worked for LIAT. What about their future?” he queried.

He asked if any discussions have been held by the shareholder governments with other airlines to help absorb these workers into that workforce.

Hundreds of former LIAT employees are owed about EC$80 million (US$30 million) in severance payments.

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