SOURCE: CMC- The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) has likened the two million dollar (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) from the government to former employees of the regional airline, LIAT, as “seeking to bribe employees into accepting whatever it has placed on the table with respect to the employees’ entitlements”.
The Gaston Browne government said it is providing two million dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents)”to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate payout” to former local employees of the regional airline.
A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister said that the funds are being made available to the LIAT Court-appointed Receiver for distribution to resident former LIAT workers.
“This sum is intended to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate payout which the Antigua and Barbuda Government has volunteered. It extends this compassionate offer, though the Government has no legal obligation to make any such payments,” the statement said.
But in a statement, the ABWU said that it “condemns and takes exception” to the government’s position, noting that “neither the eligible employees nor their respective union representatives were apprised of this pay-out prior to that media statement”.
The union has also taken offence at the government’s reference of a “court-appointed receiver” in its statement, saying it is “either a deception or a clear deliberate misnomer by the government, since LIAT (1974) Ltd is not currently in receivership, but rather in administration”.
The ABWU said that the “notion that the severance/terminal benefits payout which is put out as a compassionate payment is grossly exaggerated and can be readily perceived that the government is seeking to bribe employees into accepting whatever it has placed on the table with respect to the employees’ entitlements”.
The ABWU maintains that negotiation is the only way forward and reiterated a call for the government to “fully consult and engage the employees and their representative unions to find workable and acceptable solutions to the issues at hand” instead of “playing a political game of chess with the livelihoods of the current hardworking employees and former employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd”.
The ABWU said it has also noted that the government has given no indication of the mechanism that will be used to assist the severed employees, calling that a “classic example of its dictatorial and marginalisational tendencies”.
Last week, the Gaston Browne administration maintained its position regarding the severance offer made to former employees of the airline insisting that it “will not be involved in any further discussions regarding any possibility of negotiations of the issue of its compassionate offer”.
A statement issued after the weekly Cabinet meeting, noted that the matter had been discussed including “the offer made to meet 50 per cent of the severance cost of all LIAT workers.
“The unions have yet to accept the legal position regarding the Government’s obligations and are still seeking to engage the Government with the aim of having further negotiations. The Cabinet has re-iterated its position and will not be involved in any further discussions regarding any possibility of negotiations of the issue of its compassionate offer,” the statement noted.
Prime Minister Browne has appealed to Caribbean trade unions to re-think their positions regarding the latest offer made to laid-off workers of the airline.
The government has said it will be unconscionable to use tax payers money to pay LIAT’s staff 100 per cent of the monies owed to them, even when the governments liability was no more than 34 per cent of the value of LIAT’s ownership.
“The offer of a compassionate payment is the result of a clear understanding that the share value is $0.00 and the government has no legal obligation to pay,” it added.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Last year, Browne said that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to Antigua & Barbuda for one EC dollar.