After three years of waiting, the 89 former LIAT workers from Barbados who were among hundreds from across the region terminated by the Antigua-based airline have started collecting severance pay.
News that the cheques were ready was conveyed to the workers by the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport via email this week, and some of the ex-airline employees started collecting their money on Wednesday.
When contacted during the morning, Neil Cave, the Barbadian pilot who had been spearheading the fight for the Bajans to be compensated, described the development as a lifeline which will allow him and his former colleagues the chance to reset their lives.
“This is like a man trapped in a well and someone throws a rope down for him. This is a lifeline from the Government of Barbados and we just want to thank the Prime Minister, though it took some time in coming, for fulfilling her promise to pay the severance,” Cave told Barbados TODAY.
“The suffering that we’ve gone through, having to beg creditors, families and close friends over the last few years, it has been a very difficult time.”
The development comes just over two months after Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced in Parliament during her wrap-up of the Budget debate in April that the Government would pay the outstanding monies to the tune of $10 million.
She said the Government would pay up to $75 000 in cash to each person and any amount above that would be paid in bonds.
Mottley assured that the Barbadians who were impacted when the airline terminated hundreds of its employees in 2020 without paying severance would be fully compensated.
Cave is elated that the former airline workers can finally have the money in their hands.
“People who had businesses had to close them down because they had no money to maintain the operations. People who were doing university studies had to quit because they could not continue paying the tuition. But they can now restart their lives. This is a major relief,” the emotional senior pilot declared.
Another ex-employee said he knew of colleagues who had collected their pay, though he was still to do so.
He pointed out that what was being paid was not the “whole package” as it did not include vacation pay, pay in lieu of notice, or back pay.
“Then we have to pay back the stipend we got [from the Government],” the former LIAT staffer told Barbados TODAY.
In May 2021, the Government agreed to give the Barbadians who did not receive severance from LIAT a one-off cash gift of $2 000 and a $2 000 per month advance for one year, which was to be repaid at a future date from any severance payment settlement.
The St Lucia government has also settled the severance pay for its former LIAT workers.