By Theresa Goodwin
The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) is pushing back on claims that it is preventing former LIAT workers from accepting the $2 million compassionate payment offered by government last December to workers residing in Antigua.
Minister Lennox Weston made the claim on Sunday’s Big Issues programme when he disclosed that over 100 former LIAT employees have accepted the offer, and close to 400 more could have done so if they had not been influenced by the union to do otherwise.
The government said the payment was “a compassionate payment, intended to bring some Christmas cheer to those who have been unable to earn incomes since they were severed”, and that “the payment is limited to former LIAT workers resident in Antigua and Barbuda”.
General Secretary of the ABWU David Massiah said that Weston was incorrect in his assertion insisting that the union has been advocating for continued dialogue on the matter while the government continues to promote a “take it or leave it” approach.
“Instead of having a dialogue, there have been threats and all kinds of things. They made the offer in December and said that they would take it off the table; we sought to reach out to our membership, and the very same day of the meeting they issued this information that this $2 million was on the table.
“That information never came to us, it was through the media that we heard about this offering, and we wrote to them for us to sit down and talk so we can advise them on what to do,” Massiah said.
He also added that workers felt that this was an “insult” because the calculations of the $2 million would be minimal when compared to the amount that is owed in severance.
Massiah said that the ABWU has continued to write and talk to the relevant parties, and the only communication that has been forthcoming from the government is the fact that the different offers are non-negotiable.
Weston addressed this concern on Sunday noting that the government’s offer is solid, and workers continue to hold out, never mind the fact that they would not receive anything significant if the company is liquidated.
LIAT remains under financial administration, and is being restructured as part of ongoing efforts by the government to keep it in the skies.