Union in the dark about LIAT

(Barbados Today) The Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU) in Dominica says its members expressed concern at being kept in the dark regarding the restructuring of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.

In July, a high court in Antigua and Barbuda granted a petition allowing for the reorganisation of the airline, the appointment of an administrator as well as staying all proceedings relating to the liquidation of the company.

The High Court in St John’s granted the petition as the Gaston Browne administration moved ahead with its efforts to reorganise the airline which owes creditors in excess of EC$100 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents).

But WAWU’s secretary-treasurer, Kertist Augustus, said the workers of LIAT here are concerned “because there is no information and therefore they are at a disadvantage.

“Some might be in a position to get temporary jobs and they are concerned whether in fact that would impact in any way their continuity with LIAT.

“So this is the situation. They have not had an updated position from LIAT in relation to the last discussions that we had, ‘said Augustus.

The one-time senior official of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), said the union here is “awaiting word from the administrator because he did indicate to us that he had to do some research of his own before getting back to us”.

According to the new reorganisational plan, a copy of which has been obtained by the CMC, Antigua and Barbuda is proposing re-investment of EC$108 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents), with St John’s indicating that under the new plan it is prepared to underwrite up to 50 per cent of the required capitalisation.

“The new capital invested during reorganisation will be protected, in that it will rank in priority above all other creditors in the unlikely event of liquidation,” it said, noting that the remaining EC$54 million to be shared by other private and public sector entities, including existing shareholder governments.

The Companies Act of Antigua and Barbuda allows for the appointment of an administrator, who will be the sole representative of the LIAT estate. All decisions involving the affairs of LIAT would be taken exclusively by the administrator and not the directors, or shareholders.

The main responsibility of the administrator would be to reorganise the company by cutting liabilities and realigning expenses. The administrator would have full powers to negotiate terms with creditors, including agreement to reduce sums payable.

Prime Minister Browne in an interview with the CMC said that the reorganised LIAT (I974) limited would be different from a restructured entity.

“In a reorganised LIAT, creditors will be asked to take a cut up to 100 per cent in some instances, but on average about 50 per cent. The staff we expect, a 50 per cent reduction in the staff liabilities because if they go to liquidation they will be lucky to get 10 per cent,” he added.

The Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines governments, former shareholders in the airline, had in July agreed to sell their shares, to accommodate the new reorganisational plan outlined by Antigua and Barbuda. Dominica is the other major shareholder government.

CMC

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