Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said it was “welcomed news” that staff for the cash strapped regional airline LIAT have agreed to a less than 10 per cent salary cut.
Over the weekend, the union representing LIAT’s pilots – the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) – agreed to work for a reduced salary, and this was communicated to the shareholders.
Prior to that announcement, the Barbadian news publication Barbados TODAY reported that the regional airline could collapse if the trade unions did not come to an agreement with LIAT management on a pay cut before March 31st – the end of the Barbadian financial year.
Speaking on his radio station on the weekend, Prime Minister Browne said the failure of the airline was something that Antigua and Barbuda could not afford.
“[Barbados] Prime Minister [Mia] Motley and [St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph] Gonsalves decided if their staff did not agree to carry some of the burden, they would collapse the airline. The reality is that they have more than 60 percent of the share of LIAT combined. This places Antigua and Barbuda in an invidious position, as we cannot block any such collapse,” he said.
“My understanding was that there were some [staff] who wanted to call the bluff of the other prime ministers as Antigua and Barbuda cannot make any demands. LIAT is so important to us and a collapse of LIAT would be too disruptive to our economy.”
The restructuring proposal for LIAT includes a minimum revenue guarantee (MRG), whereby unprofitable flight routes would be cut unless governments of those destination were prepared to subsidize any shortfalls.
Following the LIALPA announcement, Browne is of the view that LIAT is in a better position than it was in the recent past.
“Finally, the hard decisions are being taken and the prospects for LIAT are far better than they were a few weeks ago,” he said.