Former LIAT employees in Barbados and the rest of the region have again cried out for financial help for them and their struggling families as they continue to wait on millions of dollars in unpaid salaries and pensions.
Hundreds of workers were terminated late last year while the airline has undergone a court-sanctioned restructuring supervised by an administrator with the aim of avoiding liquidation.
In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to bring awareness to their plight, the ex-employees have taken their pleas online, calling on the shareholder governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, to come to their rescue.
The ex-staffers said in a statement: “Imagine waking up one day after decades of diligently labouring for an employer and this employer you trusted sends you home while withholding even the salary you have already worked for. Imagine the pain of being forced to endure the current global pandemic without any financial help all the while having families to support, bills to pay, and this, in circumstances where that employer has sent you home without a penny of due entitlements.”
Describing their situation as a dark reality, the employees lamented that the Prime Minister of Antigua Gaston Browne has added insult to injury by enacting legislation to prohibit the government in St John’s from being sued.
They recalled that it all started on April 1, 2020, when over 90 per cent of LIAT staff were temporarily laid off without being given proper notice and pay.
In October 2020, about 90 per cent of the total staff were made redundant weeks after the controversial temporary layoff deadline had expired.
This group included pilots, flight attendants, engineers and ground support personnel.
At the time the layoffs and terminations were made effective, LIAT was majority-owned by four CARICOM shareholder governments.
The workers noted that the company was publicly touted as an essential service which was critical for regional connectivity.
“The shocking and troubling reality now is that these former employees have not received any monies legally due to them, inclusive of severance entitlements despite numerous pleas to those who are responsible,” the terminated workers stated.
“This ongoing ordeal is nothing short of despicable. The deplorable handling of this matter is having a catastrophic impact on hundreds of families in the region. Even the innocent children in these households are victims of this injustice and this is not the Caribbean Way.
They said: “It was publicly admitted that LIAT is ‘burning through’ approximately half a million dollars every month. This, while its oppressed former workers suffer. After years of sour industrial relations and disadvantaging its employees, LIAT continues to leverage itself on the backs of the people who kept it in the sky for 50 years.”
The former staff said that critical funds that are rightfully owed are being withheld from loyal people who had nothing to do with the airline’s demise.
“Even the handful of employees who were fortunate enough to retain their employment are reportedly being deprived of their salaries and wages. Is this fair?” the ex-workers asked.
“The overall treatment meted out to these hardworking individuals by a CARICOM institution such as LIAT, particularly the withholding of, and failure to address something as important and fundamental as severance and other entitlements is a regional travesty,” declared the terminated LIAT employees.
The former staff members are pleading with all across the region to help them asked that their message spread everywhere.
And people on social media have been responding to the ex-workers’ cry.
One reader declared “this is an absolute disgrace” while another said “we feel for our friends in Barbados. Take action with your new government.”
A third person described the treatment as shameful on the governments involved and a LIAT employee affected by the non-payment chimed in and said she was finding life difficult.