(CMC) – The General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), David Massiah, has called on the Caribbean Community (Caricom) governments to seriously get involved in the efforts to rescue the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT (1974) Limited following its collapse in 2020.
“All the governments in the Caribbean are hypocritical and they are bastardising the process with the LIAT workers. They should all sit together and come up with one plan to govern all the workers throughout LIAT and so we could get LIAT, the regional airline back in the air,” said Massiah, who also indicated that he had written to Prime Minister Gaston Browne last week and was still awaiting a response.
The airline was forced to end its operations and lay off its staff in March 2020 after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its finances. Last year, the Antigua & Barbuda government offered two million EC dollars to partially satisfy the cash component of the compassionate payout to former LIAT workers in Antigua.
In August, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he wanted a “humanitarian’ resolution to settle the ongoing pay dispute and last month, the St Lucia government said former LIAT workers there would soon receive their outstanding termination benefits.
The government said EC$4.4 million in outstanding benefits will be paid to the former workers.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Browne told Parliament that the union’s insistence on receiving 100 per cent payment for its workers has been the impediment in discussions, describing the union’s stance as “extremely unreasonable”.
LIAT, which is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), owes millions of dollars to its former employees, including pilots, who through their unions have been demanding the payments owed.
Massiah, speaking on Observer Radio in Antigua on Monday, said while he appreciated the offer by St Lucia’s Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre to make the offer to former LIAT workers in his homeland, he should have instead come to Prime Minister Browne “and say look guys let us sit down and talk.
“Skerrit of Dominica would have indicated months ago that this is a moral obligation by the governments of the region to ensure that the LIAT workers are treated fairly. But none of them has done anything.
“Let me say this, whilst I can fight the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda on the way how he is handling it, I am saying that all of the leaders in the Caribbean should come together to deal with the issue of LIAT and its workers,” Massiah told radio listeners.
In July 2020, the High Court in Antigua granted a petition allowing for the reorganisation of the cash-strapped regional airline, the appointment of an administrator as well as staying all proceedings relating to the liquidation of the company.