LIAT pilots’ new row with management cripples travel

By Martina Johnson

Hundreds of passengers across the region were left stranded yesterday after LIAT’s pilots refused to fly until a dispute with management is settled.

The pilots said the row is over management’s decision to train a non-LIAT pilot for certification/licensing to fly the ATR aircraft.

While LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Julie Reifer-Jones said “the action taken is disproportionate to the issue at hand”, the President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), Carl Burke, said management’s decision breaches the collective bargaining agreement.

Reifer Jones said, “This is really very damaging to our plans to restore the operations to normalcy based on the impact of the hurricanes on LIAT. If we are not flying it does not help anyone…the action affected us throughout the network from about 11 a.m. [Friday]. We are still in discussions with them to address the issue.”

Neither Reifer-Jones nor the company’s Corporate Communications Manager Shavar Maloney were able to provide details on the specific flights and number of passengers affected.

“One of two flight were done but after 11 o’clock everything was impacted,” the CEO said. The company’s website was not yet updated with the information at press time last night.

Captain Burke told OBSERVER media, “I had to call an emergency meeting with my membership and we are going to make a decision on where we go from here. More than likely we may have to take some form of legal action based on this situation that took place. LIAT, in our opinion, has breached or violated our collective agreement.”

He said this was done when LIAT allegedly “signed a contract with the third party or [has] given the understanding to a third party that [it] would train one of their pilots with/by our pilots. In our opinion, our collective agreement does not allow this.”

Burke said he warned his pilots in a memo a few weeks ago, that “nobody within LIAT, who is a member of LIALPA, should do any training, flying, which includes simulated training, and that sort of thing, with any non-LIAT pilot unless the association has indicated it has a signed or written agreement with LIAT.”

When LIAT learned of the memo, the Director of Human Resource, Captain Arthur Senhouse, wrote to Captain Burke saying, “It was brought to my attention that you have instructed pilots not to travel to Miami except for regular Instrument and Proficiency Check (IPC) purposes due to violations of the MOA between LIALPA and LIAT.

We are not aware of the MOA section that has been violated.”

The HR official explained that there “was no mal-intent” when LIAT agreed to provide training to the pilot.

He said the airline received a request from the head of the ATC for training assistance for an instructor who holds an Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)/ Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) licence so he could complete a Type Rating.

This Type Rating, Senhouse’s letter stated, can only be completed if the pilot has a qualified OECS/ ECCAA ATR (600) pilot in the right hand seat for the purpose of the check. The letter outlined that this was sanctioned by ECCAA and LIAT did not anticipate any negative reaction from LIALPA.

While Captain Senhouse apologised in the letter, LIALPA Captain told OBSERVER media, that after that apology, he asked LIAT’s management to give him time to consult with the pilots and to provide feedback.

But according to Captain Burke, the airline snuck the instructor in for the training and it was done by a management pilot yesterday.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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