By Shermain Bique-Charles
The President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the recent indication by a shareholder government to offer some form of payout to former LIAT workers there.
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, gave that indication this week, saying he had already spoken to Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, about his intent.
“I already asked Gaston to ask the administrator for the final numbers for St Vincent and the Grenadines’ workers for us to see what we could do,” Gonsalves said.
He added that while he has no legal obligation to pay former employees, he will do so on a moral basis.
“If you have a moral responsibility, the moral responsibility has to be to everybody whom LIAT owes,” he said.
However, President of LIALPA, Patterson Thompson, said he had reserved his comments pending a meeting between LIAT shareholders this month.
Dr Gonsalves said he had also asked PM Browne “to get the indebtedness for small taxi operators, hoteliers and people who had purchased tickets which were bought by customers before the airline stopped flying which amounts to over EC$10 million”.
Meanwhile, even in the wake of serious backlash, Gonsalves remains adamant that some former LIAT pilots, engineers, flight attendants and other workers were “highly irresponsible” and caused the airline to lose a lot of money.
He spoke of strikes, delays and other industrial action which caused LIAT to lose cash while having to make refunds.
Gonsalves made similar comments in June, sparking an outcry among ex-staff.
LIAT entered into court-appointed administration in July 2020 after a High Court judge granted a petition for the carrier’s reorganisation.
The Guyana-born chairman of BDO Antigua and Barbuda, Cleveland Seaforth, was appointed LIAT’s administrator for the duration of the proceedings.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Collectively, its hundreds of former workers are owed more than EC$120 million in severance and other payments.