Pilots’ union refutes notion that former workers are to blame for LIAT’s failure

LIAT 1974 Ltd has provided crucial regional connectivity for decades
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Former LIAT pilots are once again making an impassioned plea for regional leaders to not only “bring an end to the suffering” of the workers awaiting severance, but to also desist from blaming them for the carrier’s failure.

The call comes after recent comments by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who conceded that the company had management issues, but noted that strikes by employees also cost the carrier to lose millions of dollars.

However, former LIAT pilot Ewing Dorsett Jr, an executive member of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA)has rejected the claim.

“Every time that LIAT comes up and the failure of LIAT comes up, the narrative is the loss of revenue due to strike actions by employees over and over and over again,” he said.

“There is no mention to mismanagement of the company [by] the persons responsible to the company. You cannot tell me that a strike action every blue moon is causing the collapse of a company when there are many other issues that are endemic to the airline, the management of the airline, the structure of the airline that is causing the loss of revenues … much, much more than a strike action for one day.”

Dorsett added that a number of issues brought on by decisions of various shareholder governments and upper management that put further financial strain on LIAT have been documented, but little was done to address those problems.

Meanwhile, the President of LIALPA, Patterson Thompson, is questioning why the major shareholders in the carrier – Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and Grenadines, and Dominica – cannot unite to resolve the issue.

He explained that he understands that a prior commitment by the directors to keep the carrier financed would have been difficult given the hardship brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and several natural disasters that his hit the region, but Thompson believes more can be done to help the carrier and its current and former employees. 

“Why four prime ministers can’t get together and say, ‘let us do something?’

“Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves cannot divorce himself from his own leadership role as a primary shareholder in LIAT,” he added, noting that workers have felt like “second class citizens” in their quest to get answers concerning the future of the carrier and severance.

Thompson said he understands that shareholder governments are not obligated to pay severance to the former employees, but stresses that it is the “moral” thing to do.

Terminated workers have been on the breadline since April 2020 after the airline took a nosedive during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former workers are owed millions of dollars in severance and other payments, and some of them have gone public to document the hardship they and their families face with payouts stalled.

To date, LIAT remains in court sanctioned administration as Antigua and Barbuda continues its bid to save the airline.

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