‘Unfortunate’, Barbados senator says of A&B’s move to change liquidation law to save LIAT

Lisa Cummins
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Lisa Cummins believes it complicates severance issue for former employees

Barbados government officials still believe that the handling of severance pay to former LIAT employees could be better following Antigua and Barbuda’s move to change the country’s laws in a bid to save the airline in 2020.

Senator Lisa Cummins of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has since called this move “unfortunate” – as she believes that it complicated the issue of severance for former employees.

A statement issued by the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda explained that under the amended legislation, firms that find themselves in trouble may now apply to the Court for protection from their creditors, rather than be compelled to liquidate as was the only option available to owners and creditors before passage of the law.

However, Cummins said that the Mia Mottley-led administration is remaining committed to labour practices in which companies should be held to task to pay people who are owed severance pay.

“It was unfortunate that the legislation was changed in Antigua that created a bit of a challenge for the employees of LIAT to be able to get their monies if there were any future difficulties with the company and it is on that basis, we looked at the people that were genuinely involved and affected,” Cummins said on Observer AM yesterday.

Cummins revealed that talks among herself and Barbadians who are former LIAT pilots have occurred and she shared her view that a company’s internal affairs should not affect its ability to give severance pay.

“I met personally on two occasions one directly with the pilots in my office and on a second occasion under the leadership of Mia Mottley and the entire financial team and it is on that basis we made the decision that people cannot be made to suffer while companies sort out their internal affairs,” she said.

Additionally, Cummins reiterated that the BLP is hopeful that the parties involved can arrive at an amicable solution.

“What we have been hoping for is a resolution by the company that is consistent with the standard labour where people are paid their severance, their vacation pay, in lieu of notice that they also get those payments under the umbrella of the company and that we stop shouting really across the ocean or that we stop shouting at each other.

“We have a habit in the Barbados Labour Party and in the government of Barbados of sitting down and talking to people, talking through issues and we are hopeful that practice would be the same with LIAT 1974 Limited based in Antigua and the employees hired by the company of which Barbados is a shareholder still and bringing some final resolution to this matter. It simply cannot continue in this way indefinitely.”

Last Friday, member of the opposition Democratic Labour Party in Barbados, Maxine McClean said the issue of LIAT and the severance owed had dragged on too long and would be a priority for her party should she to employees would occupy the attention of the party should they win at the January 19 poll.

Meanwhile, Bishop Joseph Atherley, who served as Opposition Leader in Parliament since crossing the aisle after the 2018 election in Barbados, told Observer the Mia Mottley administration’s response to the plight of LIAT workers has been inadequate.

“I do think that the LIAT former workers have been treated badly. A number of them have approached me here in Barbados, I have championed their cause and publicly so and that effort has resulted in some kind of measure of movement on the part of government to give them a bit of compensation but that is grossly insufficient,” Bishop Atherley claimed on Observer AM yesterday.

The DLP leader also critiqued the relationship between the two governments, stating that the state of intra-regional travel is in jeopardy.

“They hear the attitude by the Barbados government that they are not obligated to these people and they are employed by LIAT, and LIAT is registered in Antigua. I think it is rather disappointing and I think we need to platform properly regional transport and not get it locked up in these insularly positions and these personality conflicts and some of these other practices of corruption.”

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who commented during the LIAT discussion with Lisa Cummins said that placing LIAT into administration does not change the status on any severance liability that may be payable.

He wants the BLP to address if Barbados will provide a severance offer to workers commensurate with their shareholding.

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