By Shermain Bique-Charles
While agreeing there’s an obvious need to talk about issues facing LIAT, President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), said before that can be done, Caribbean governments should recognise that there are still former employees that must be taken care of.
Captain Patterson Thompson was responding directly to reports from the Cabinet last Thursday, that the government intends to ask every territory to which LIAT flies to purchase shares so that the burdens and the benefits of LIAT can be equitably shared.
LIAT was primarily funded by the governments of Barbados – the main shareholder – as well as Antigua and Barbuda – where it is headquartered – St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica, but they could not reach an agreement on the settlement of the outstanding financial obligations.
“Yes, the Cabinet notes reflect talks about expansion and proposed plans and I agree that there is a need to talk about those issues, but there seems to be mixed signals. In what direction are we going? Are we resuscitating LIAT 1974 Ltd, or are we investing in a brand-new entity?” Thompson questioned.
Either way, he maintains that the financial situation regarding severance must be satisfied first.
LIAT scaled back its operations in April 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, sending hundreds of workers, who are collectively owed millions in severance and other payments, on the breadline.
“We need to solve the severance situation or give some kind of financial package to all terminated workers of LIAT 1974 Limited. Those workers who continue to be employed are also facing the same predicament. It must be hard going to work knowing what you see your former colleagues going through, you are about to go through at some point,” Thompson said.
St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Tuesday that Caricom leaders have agreed on a new modern multilateral air services agreement that will enable a new framework within which air transportation will operate in the Caribbean.
He told a news conference marking the end of the 43rd Caricom Summit in Paramaribo, Suriname, that countries, particularly those in the Eastern Caribbean, and even Trinidad & Tobago have been severely affected by the loss of thousands of seats because LIAT was no longer flying into destinations.
“It is better for all concerned to get together around a table and sort this out. The severance is too large for any one shareholder to take in. We can’t sweep the severance and nonpayment under the carpet,” Dr Gonsalves said.