LIAT pilots have lost round one of their legal battle to have greater jurisdiction over some EC$31 million held by the airline in an escrow account, under what the company says is a pension plan.
An application filed by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) against LIAT for an injunction to freeze the funds at the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) was dismissed today when the case came up for hearing in St John’s.
“LIAT’s desire has always been to work with its employees and their representatives in order to establish a pension plan for the benefit of all. That desire remains unchanged after today’s hearing,” the airline said in a statement.
When contacted, president of LIALPA Captain Patterson Thompson told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, he was not deterred by the outcome of the case and would not rule out industrial action as a last resort in their fight to have the money returned to the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda.
“We are going to have a regional consultative mechanism meeting tomorrow, which is basically all the unions involved in LIAT. We normally get together to meet with the company. Either prior to the meeting or after the meeting, I will sit down with the rest of the associations and let them know what happen. I am guided by the membership to how I would proceed,” Thompson said.
“But I think the majority of the members will say that they need to have that money back in the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda. We will pursue whatever legal routes we have and you always have the use of industrial action as a last resort,” he added.
“I want you to state that by no means am I deterred. I don’t consider it a setback. I consider it an instruction in getting our information tighter and presenting a better case going forward. We are not deterred by any stretch of the imagination,” stated the pilots’ association leader.
Thompson told this newspaper the company did not inform the board of directors or its chairman Jean Holder that the bank account was open or that money was moved.
“We had a regional consultative meeting last month in Antigua. They did not take the opportunity to tell any of the unions that they opened a bank account of our money. So you understand why we are feeling the way we are feeling, because this is not your money at the end of the day,” he declared.
“Now the court may have said today we do not have enough proof to say that there is a potential disastrous situation with your money being moved,” Thompson said.
The LIALPA head is therefore demanding that they know why the money was moved and who gave permission to move it. “And it cannot help the industrial climate in LIAT right now. If you are going to think that you can do things like that and don’t tell the workers what’s going on, that is not going to help. So let me make that clear.” When contacted, LIAT Chairman Jean Holder declined to comment on today’s ruling.