The head of the regional negotiating body for LIAT unions is hopping mad over the suggestion that employees
at the airline be made part of the essential services.
“If a worker cannot withdraw his labour, then a management cannot fire,” said an angry Chester Humphrey, in response to the suggestion by Dominica’s Prime Minister
Roosevelt Skerrit and LIAT chairman
Dr Jean Holder.
“Philosophically, we are fundamentally opposed to any
provision which would prevent a worker from withdrawing his
labour. A distinction between a
free man and a slave is the right
of a free man not to work. A slave
has no such right.
“To tell me that because I refuse to work you will give me a custodial sentence is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of human rights in a democratic society.”
Skerrit put forward the idea on Tuesday, the same day pilots took industrial action.
Dominica recently became the fourth major shareholder in the financially troubled carrier, based in Antigua, after injecting millions into it.
The other significant shareholders are Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Humphrey said those governments must accept blame for the industrial relations problems at the airline because they persistently refuse to hold management accountable.
The veteran trade unionist also
gave his full support to the pilots, adding that their industrial action
was provoked by “reckless use of managerial power”.
But the LIAT chairman said,
in a Barbados TODAY interview, that there was a strong case for workers to become part of the
He, however, advised authorities to approach the matter cautiously due to the sensitivity involved.
“LIAT demonstrates itself to be an essential service when for any reason it ceases to fly. If LIAT does not fly across the system on any one day, as many as 4,000 plus persons are completely paralysed in terms of getting from one place in the region to the other. That would be almost a definition of an essential service,” Holder said.
“I think there is a fear among
some union personnel that this,
in some way, will stop them from
taking industrial action, but I don’t
think it would.
“I think what it aims to do is to prevent a complete disruption of regional transport in the Caribbean, and it places industrial action in the kind of context where everybody will take great care before they just bring a service to an end.”
LIAT employs more that 500 workers across the region.
Yesterday, representatives of
the airline management and the
pilots’ union held “cordial” discussions on the industrial action and the
Following the meeting, LIAT said the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association had legitimate concerns and discussions would continue.