By Robert A Emmanuel
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has once again called on former LIAT workers to ‘take it or leave it’ in regard to the government’s offered ‘compassionate payments’, with LIAT 1974 expected to be liquidated in the coming months.
With LIAT 2020 on track to begin operations, the government has said that liquidation of LIAT 1974 would serve to create a seamless transition into the new entity.
However, what does this mean for former LIAT workers who have been seeking severance since the company’s collapse in 2020?
In Parliament last week, the Prime Minister stated that the new entity will begin purchasing assets from the defunct company shortly after LIAT 1974 has been officially liquidated and, according to the Prime Minister in an interview this week, once they have finished paying for those assets, there will be nothing left for severance.
“In this particular case, the money that we pay for the planes, which will be about 12 to 13 million US dollars, the monies will be paid into the Caribbean Development Bank to reduce the debt on those planes.
“Now the outstanding debt is at least three times the amount of the value of those planes, so there will be no surplus to go towards paying severance and that is why we said that we will do a compassionate [payment]. It will not remain indefinite,” the Prime Minister stated.
The government has also lowered the amount on the table. It is now a 32 percent compassionate payment on offer —a reduction from the previous 50 percent.
The government based the reduction on the percentage of shares that the Antigua and Barbuda government held in LIAT.
The new airline will be primarily funded by Nigerian carrier Air Peace and its CEO, Allen Onyema, who will have 70 percent shareholding in the new enterprise with the government of Antigua and Barbuda holding the remaining 30 percent.
Several regional governments have also indicated interest in being a part of the new company, however exact share percentage has not been determined, according to the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) – the local union representatives for former LIAT staff – has said that it will issue a press statement on the matter.
President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), Patterson Thompson, declined to comment on the latest developments.