General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), David Massiah called for the removal of the management of the struggling regional airline, LIAT.
Massiah made the comments at the Trade Union Congress on Monday, stating that since the government is leading the discussions to keep LIAT alive, it was imperative that the current management of LIAT be removed.
“We ask that the government ensure that, in taking the lead in this LIAT arrangement, that before we go [anywhere] that the entire management has to go,” he said.
Massiah cited, as his reasons for the declaration, the continual insistence by the management at LIAT that staff take a pay cut, despite the continual financial support by shareholder governments.
“The shareholder governments continue to give money to LIAT. Yet, every year that money goes in, they are calling on the workers to make sacrifices, to take a pay cut while the management continue to sit pretty,” he said.
Massiah added that LIAT has had major errors in its recent past without any manager being held accountable or fired for it.
“Some years ago, they had a fire at LIAT- aircraft destroyed, maintenance information destroyed. But not one manager lost their job,” he said, adding that in any good airline, there would have been a backup of the files that were destroyed.
“What that meant is a number of planes LIAT could not sell back to their leasers because they did not have information on the aircraft,” Massiah said.
The fire, referenced by David Massiah, occurred in June 2012 where a maintenance hanger, several engines, a passenger aircraft and copies of technical records were destroyed, costing the regional airline around $60 million; the cause of the fire was reported to be a golf cart that was left plugged in for two days.
The ABWU General Secretary also demanded that shareholder governments and the Board of Directors at LIAT be held accountable for their actions.
“Some of the shareholders and representatives for the Board of Antigua and Barbuda- a number of them who sat over the years- need to be held accountable. Because they help put us into this rot as well. I am not talking about just today, but over the years,” he said.
He railed against the threats of other shareholders governments to collapse the airline.
“At a recent meeting with shareholder governments, they threatened us, [stating that] Antigua has all the workers, and they can afford to collapse the organization,” he said.
Massiah’s was an additional voice supporting Prime Minister Gaston Browne and his administration’s insistence that there will not be any collapse of the airline.
As the Cabinet noted, the government has “reiterated the importance of the regional carrier to regional integration, connecting people and goods and services. The Cabinet pledged to resist any collapse of LIAT and any move to re-create its replacement.”
Subsequent to this statement, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves stated that the regional carrier may be forced to close its operations after Caribbean governments appear reluctant to provide the necessary cash injection need to keep the airline flying.
According to Massiah, “LIAT is too large to fail, too important for us to let go down the drain. If LIAT collapse tomorrow, that will be another British American debacle on our hands and our economy will go down to nothing.”