SOURCE: OBSERVER Newsco — Concerns that not enough has been done to help former LIAT employees have been addressed by a local union leader.
LIAT 1974 Limited was ultimately grounded two years ago as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic fallout, leaving its workers unemployed and clamouring for still stalled severance payments.
Deputy General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union Chester Hughes has assured the airline’s former staff that distribution of grocery vouchers began yesterday and explained why there was a delay in giving the assistance.
The body is also providing vouchers to former employees of ground handling firm Caribbean Airport Services (CAS) which also fell victim to the pandemic.
“There was an issue when we offered the vouchers. At that time, there was some mix-up with the registration process and we did not have enough persons registered.
“Today we will be handing out over 175 vouchers of EC$200 to employees of both LIAT and CAS who registered for the vouchers. Those $200 vouchers are for Billy’s Supermarket,” Hughes said.
Meanwhile, a decision by St Lucia’s government to enter into an agreement with non-management LIAT employees to settle long-standing severance was welcomed by Hughes.
Hughes has been criticising Antigua and Barbuda’s government and its approach to the issue of outstanding monies owed to the workers.
“The Antigua and Barbuda government is a shareholder like Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica.
“If Antigua and Barbuda took over LIAT and took over the assets and liability then the Antigua and Barbuda government is responsible for the severance just as any private sector company,” he declared.
Prime Minister Browne previously appealed to Caribbean trade unions to rethink their positions regarding the offer made to laid-off workers of the airline earlier this year.
The government said it was providing EC$2 million “to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate pay-out” to former local LIAT staff.
The government also said it would be unconscionable to use taxpayers’ money to pay LIAT’s staff 100 percent of the monies owed to them, when the government’s liability was no more than 34 percent of the value of LIAT’s ownership.
LIAT 1974 has been under a court-appointed administrator since 2020, and has been operating a reduced schedule with a limited workforce.
In February, Minister Lennox Weston said negotiations were gathering momentum with potential investors in the regional carrier’s new incarnation. He said LIAT 2020 Ltd is expected to fly by mid-year.