Regional airline LIAT could soon be designated an essential service. But in making the disclosure during an interview with Barbados TODAY last night, one of the four shareholder prime ministers, Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, gave the assurance that the decision was not meant to undermine or destroy the trade unions.
Spencer, who had minutes before attended a shareholders meeting at Hilton Barbados Resort, with prime ministers representing the other airline owners from Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Dominica financial secretary, informed this newspaper there had been general agreement to designate LIAT as an essential service.
“One of the things we had looked at in the past, and we revisited today, [yesterday], is the whole question as how LIAT ought to be viewed as an institution; because of its important role, should LIAT be designated an essential service. We looked at that, there was general agreement that it should be looked at in that regard; not that we are saying that this is [an] anti-union, anti-worker stance,” pointed out the Antigua and Barbuda government leader.
However, he argued that the importance of the airline as an institution, should be recognised when it came to the movement of Caribbean people.
“The whole philosophy behind integration and the fact that it is really owned by the people, that we have to in terms of our behavioural relationships and so on, that there are certain types of things that ought to bring order into the relationship,” he reasoned.
“And so, we are hoping that we can encourage all the regional governments to work with their constituents, the trade unions and other associations involved to understand the importance of LIAT to the socio-economic development of this region, that we have to treat it somewhat differently, from the norm,” explained Spencer.
“Not that we are seeking to undermine or destroy . . . certainly, I would not be party of any such thing, because I am an unrepentant trade unionist. But at the same time, I have a responsibility to be able to address issues that are fundamental to the continued growth and development of an institution, which is so critical to the integration process and the socio-economic development of this region,” declared the Antigua and Barbuda prime minister.
When contacted, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Sir Roy Trotman told Barbados TODAY this morning he could not make any informed comment on the proposal to make LIAT an essential service, because he was not fully apprised of what Spencer really meant and the context of his statement.
Sir Roy said when that time came, he would be in a position to comment. However, he did assert that the Caribbean Congress of Labour had asked Spencer to be their spokesman on labour at the CARICOM level and that he was doing an excellent job.