The three-day strike by LIAT pilots has ended.
Late Friday, news came of a resolution to their pay dispute with management of the Antigua-based regional carrier that had resulted in numerous flight cancellations and system-wide delays since Wednesday.
The three-day deadlock, which left hundreds stranded at the various airports across the region to which LIAT flies, came at the height of the protracted pay impasse that resulted in blatant refusal by members of the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) to operate the company’s ATR aircraft until a financial settlement was reached.
In a press statement Friday evening, LIAT management announced that it had brokered a deal with its pilots to end the ongoing industrial action. However, no details were given on the pay agreement after management had earlier accused the pilots of holding the region to ransom even though they had been warned by the pilots that they were not prepared to hold out any longer for their outstanding pay.
LIALPA had also made it clear that it wanted no part of any deferrals for an installment of retroactive ATR pay adjustment dating back to 2013.
And during a meeting in St John’s on Wednesday, the pilots’ union rejected a new proposal tabled by management that would see its members receiving salary increases with respect to the ATR-72 from July 19, 2017.
LIAT has also proposed to make a retroactive ATR pay adjustment, dating back to 2013, in three installments commencing in December 2017.
However, LIAPA had earlier made it clear that its members wanted no part of any deferrals.
“While the company drags this out, the retroactive payment is increasing month by month to a point where they may have to later approach us to ask for some relief or to write off the outstanding monies owed completely,” LIALPA President Carl Burke had warned in a statement last month.
“The company, since January 2017, remains defiant and has used all reason to evade paying the recently agreed salary/ATR-72 weight pay package. The company has also refused to acknowledge and accept that the association has objected and indeed rejected its proposal to implement a salary deferral programme,” he said at the time.
LIALPA has further argued that in 2014 it participated in a salary deferral exercise, which was projected for five months, but lasted 14 months, without any tangible results.
The impasse has left a bitter taste in the mouths of members of the travelling public.
When Barbados TODAY arrived at the Grantley Adams International Airport Friday afternoon around 4 p.m., some distressed passengers openly complained about the quality of treatment they had received from the carrier.
In fact, a frustrated Marcia Beckles was adamant that she would never fly with LIAT again after the poor customer service she experienced.
The British citizen was originally scheduled to leave Guyana on Tuesday after celebrating her mother–in–law’s 80th birthday. However, after being delayed at the Eugene F. Correia International Airport in Georgetown for several hours, she was first transported to Trinidad’s Piarco International before arriving at Grantley Adams last night on a trip that was originally scheduled to take her from Georgetown to Bridgetown and then on to St John’s for her connection back home.
However, the angry passenger said she has simply been shuttled from one airport to the other with little or no information forthcoming to date on when exactly she would about to reach St John’s to connect to her international flight.
“A representative from LIAT came and said that we had been booked into a hotel and our flights had been booked. When I came this afternoon, I hadn’t been booked on any flight by LIAT, I had to go backwards and forwards,” the disgruntled passenger said.
She was also upset that she has not been compensated for the hotel costs and that LIAT has only committed so far to covering the costs of an economy ticket for her back to the UK even though her original booking was in Premium Economy.
Beckles also said that throughout the ordeal she was made to feel as though LIAT officials were doing her a favour.
“I’ve been told that because it is a strike, they do not have to cover the cost, they are doing me a favour. I don’t feel they are doing me a favour. I am really upset to be quite honest,” she told Barbados TODAY, while alleging that a door was also slammed in her face by a LIAT duty manager when asked her for assistance.
“You really wouldn’t mind if people apologized for what they have done, but nobody apologized. Only person who has apologized is the project manager,” Beckles said.
“I think at the end of the day the people that are striking must have had a reason to be striking. I don’t blame them, I blame the people up above,” she said in support of the LIAT pilots.
Beckles was not the only passenger with a LIAT horror story Friday.
One Grenadian passenger, who did not want to be unidentified, said that she nearly missed her visa renewal appointment with the United States Embassy because of the impasse.
“I was severely dehydrated,” said the passenger who was reportedly made to wait for three hours in St George’s before making the flight to Bridgetown.
She said not only were plans seriously thrown off, but also the entire impasse has proven to be both costly and very inconvenient for her.
“There is no certainty at all,” she said, adding that many others passengers were also quite put off by the strike and what she deemed to be poor communication on LIAT’s part.
“The flight was three hours late. Nobody came to us, nobody said anything. We waited, we were supposed to depart from Grenada at 12:15 p.m. and we were to get in to Barbados at 1:45, and nobody said anything. We were just monitoring the screens, following up and seeing ‘delayed, delayed, delayed’ . . . . They need to do better than that,” she added.
However, Vincentian passenger Rosena Roberts seemingly took the delays in stride telling Barbados TODAY it was a normal occurrence with LIAT.
“They always delaying the flights and sometimes they leave you overnight and that is bad. They need to do much better,” she said.
Without referring to any specific complaint, the company said Friday evening, it was now working to restore normal operations and will assisting passengers in rebooking to restored services. email@example.com