By Theresa Goodwin
LIAT’s Court-appointed administrator, Cleveland Seaforth, has formally written to regional heads of government appealing to the respective leaders to consider covering the cost of severance entitlements of approximately EC$79 million to the airline’s former employees.
In the letter dated January 22, Seaforth explained that as of April 2020, the total unpaid entitlements to workers across the region, amounted to EC$119,006,962. Of this amount EC$79,011,337 is in respect of the employee’s legal severance entitlements.
“Based on preliminary estimates, it is highly unlikely that any significant portion of the workers’ severance entitlement will likely result from the estate of LIAT (1974) Limited, upon its eventual liquidation,” Seaforth wrote.
“This likely eventuality is most unfortunate as over the years, notwithstanding the continued financial ill health of the company, the employees committed themselves and continued to provide service to the company,” he continued.
The administrator also pointed out that “the employees were of the firm view that by virtue of the company being primarily owned by the governments of the region, it was most unlikely that hardship would come to them, because there was an expectation that the company would never be abandoned by the respective governments.”
He stated further, that based on discussions with various unions in each of the territories, it is clearly evident that both the current and former workers are experiencing severe financial hardship and a high level of disappointment, in what is perceived as a lack of support from the respective governments.
Seaforth also pointed out that the government of Antigua and Barbuda believes it has a moral obligation to the former workers, but the onus is far too great for a single government.
The Antiguan government, he said, is prepared to offer the employees up to a maximum of 50 percent of their severance, through a combination of cash, land or government bonds.
He suggested that such an approach could be considered by other governments across the region and indicated his willingness to hold dialogue on the matter.
The Administrator also revealed that, to date, 564 workers have been terminated and as the restructuring process is completed, the remaining 103 employers will also be terminated.
The letter was addressed to the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
It was also copied to the CARICOM Secretary-General and several of the trade unions across the islands.