SOURCE: 268 TODAY – The Gaston Browne administration has come to the rescue of LIAT workers who have not been paid their salaries for July.
LIAT, which employed more than 600 workers, kept on about 100 employees when it was forced to stop flying earlier this year, after the COVID-19 pandemic led to countries closing their borders.
Prime Minister Browne said the Cabinet on Friday agreed to make available between Wednesday and Thursday next week, $2.8 million to cover certain LIAT expenses. [Monday and Tuesday are national holidays in Antigua].
“[Of this amount] $1.4 million will go to the [Administrator] and $1.4 million will go towards paying the staff who have been working for the past month and have not received a red cent,” Prime Minister Browne said on Pointe FM’s Browne and Browne Show.
“Antigua and Barbuda has agreed to step up and make those payments in full. And inasmuch as we are only responsible for about 36 per cent of the $1.4 million, there was a previous payment that we did not participate in earlier in the year, so on that basis we have opted to pay $1.4 million.”
The Prime Minister said this does stop the other countries “to include Barbados,” paying their share of the monies owed to the workers.
“But we are not waiting on them to make their payment, we have decided to cover 100 per cent of the payment for the last month,” he said.
Browne said all other liabilities will form part of the LIAT estate, and it is the Administrator who will determine how much they’re paid.
“If the Administrator is unable to get the necessary cuts to make LIAT viable, then clearly it’s going to be mayhem because it means that creditors will maybe end up with nine per cent or less, if they’re lucky,” the Prime Minister explained.
Guyana-born Cleveland Seaforth was appointed Administrator on July 25.
Prime Minister Browne said Seaforth has just completed his first week on the job and he [Browne] has not yet been briefed on the state of affairs at the airline.
“He’s meeting with various stakeholders [and] one of the major objectives is to meet with creditors and to negotiate certain haircuts. If he’s not successful in achieving those haircuts, clearly LIAT will be liquidated creating significant losses for creditors to include the staff of LIAT,” the Prime Minister said.
“I am of the view that the creditors are rational people and that they will ensure that at least they come out with something rather than nothing.
“His main role is to see how he can reduce liabilities and operating expenses and on the basis that he’s successful in so doing, then we should be able to establish LIAT in some form, even if not at the size that it was pre-COVID, certainly a downsized and a far more efficient LIAT,” Prime Minister Browne added.