100% Severance is the Only Reasonable Settlement for the Former Employees of Liat in Antigua 

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St John’s, Antigua – 12 July 2023 – After three years of financial and emotional distress, LIAT’s ex-employees in Barbados are beginning to rebuild their lives as the Government is now making good on its earlier commitment to satisfy workers’ demand for 100% severance settlement. Just last week, many ex-employees began receiving their cheques from the Barbados Government. The decision of the Barbados Government to concede to the workers’ claim for 100% severance validates the workers’ and Unions’ stance that full severance — 100% — is the only reasonable settlement. 

However, despite this clear precedent set by the Mottley Administration, the Government of  Antigua and Barbuda has disgracefully reduced its so-called “compassionate” offer from 50% to  32% of severance, with a looming threat to completely withdraw any form of settlement if ex-employees do not accept this offer. For all intents and purposes, the Government’s aim has always been to bully the workers into accepting a less-than-satisfactory offer; there has never been a  genuine interest in properly concluding this matter! 

Meanwhile, the Government has mustered up enormous energies to pursue the Nigerian Carrier,  Air Peace to invest in a Liat 2020. They have also indicated that they are prepared to undertake a  regional roadshow to acquire additional buy-in for the new venture. But why haven’t the Prime  Minister and his Government displayed a similar level of urgency and empathy when it comes to the former workers’ severance? Why isn’t the severance of these workers a priority for the Gaston  Browne administration? 

To add insult to injury, the Prime Minister continues to boast that his Government is free of all legal obligations to the workers while witnessing the ensuing suffering his uncaring actions have created. The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union wishes to remind the Prime Minister that there are two ILO Conventions and one ILO Recommendation that provide specific guidance on addressing worker claims in the event of enterprise insolvency: They are the ILO Protection of  Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95), the ILO Protection of Workers’ Claims (Employer’s  Insolvency) Convention, 1992 (No. 173), and the Protection of Workers’ Claims (Employer’s  Insolvency) Recommendation, 1992 (No. 180).

On the matter of the Administration of Liat 1974 Ltd, we are gravely concerned that after three years, the court-appointed Administrator, Mr. Cleveland Seaforth has made no effort to apprise the Union, workers or the general public on the developments or outcomes of the administration given their significant interest in this process. One would expect that at least on a point of courtesy,  some form of communication would have been provided to the Union and workers in the spirit of transparency, and with an aim to reach a reasonable settlement. But everything that has unfolded with regard to the administration process has been shrouded in secrecy. 

In recent days, the indication coming from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda is that a “new  LIAT 2020” is on the horizon. According to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, this new LIAT will  be the “sustainable solution” to regional travel “leaving all the legacy issues behind.” What we wish to know is whether the Prime Minister also intends to leave the workers’ severance behind as he pursues this new entity. The reality is that any new airline built on the plunder of workers’  entitlements could never be a sustainable solution! 

On the contrary, a sustainable solution to regional travel can emerge only where the enduring principles of justice, dignity, and respect for the rights of workers are foundational pillars.  Furthermore, all stakeholders in regional travel must be willing to embrace the principles of tripartism, evidenced through genuine engagement and dialogue with workers and their representatives. Anything short of this would inevitably collapse. 

We again call on the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to do the right thing! Satisfying the worker’s claim to 100% severance is the morally acceptable position based on the arrangements made by the Governments of Barbados and St Lucia. Our Union is prepared to accept an offer similar to that made by the Mottley Administration; up to $75,000 in cash and any amount above that to be paid in bonds. Mr Prime Minister, do the noble thing! Let us meet at the negotiating table and settle this issue of severance so we can move forward together in finding a sustainable solution for regional travel.

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