The government is now willing to offer ex-LIAT employees 50% cash-only, after initially making a compassionate payment offer in cash, lands, and bonds.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne now says he’s willing to dig a little deeper into the government’s purse to assist the former workers who were displaced over two and a half years ago when LIAT 1974 Ltd plunged.
These workers, through their bargaining agent the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union have been agitating for their severance pay and other monies owed to them, amounting to millions of dollars.
“We made a determination that we will give a payment representing a compassionate payment of up to 50% of the amounts due to them and it could be a combination of cash, lands, and bonds. We never determine the quantities in which they would have been given”.
“In fact, we even opened up the door subsequently to say that if they wanted it in all cash…we are opened to have this discussion,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, Browne told Parliament on Thursday the government could consider offering a second compassionate payment during this month.
A $2 million payment was offered to the former employees last December, but only a small fraction of that was actually collected.
The ABWU has said that there are several aspects of the offer which must be ironed out before it can be accepted. The severance issue is now heading into the third year.
“We made a compassionate payment last Christmas of $2M we may, and this is not a firm commitment but we could consider making another compassionate payment for another couple of million dollars again this Christmas, we could, we may…” Browne said.
The prime minister maintained, however, that the idea that the government of Antigua and Barbuda is being held responsible for 100% of the severance for LIAT workers which it had no such liability is unreasonable.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Melford Nicholas told the weekly Cabinet press conference that the government has approached OECS member states as efforts continue to raise capital for LIAT 2020; a new entity.
The government is initially expected to raise three million dollars toward the transition from LIAT 1974 Ltd to the new LIAT 2020
“It is incontestable that the absence of LIAT has caused tremendous anxiety for the traveling public across the region…We have now proposed to move to LIAT 2020. All of the OECS member countries have been offered the option. The placement offer has been made for the capitalization of LIAT 2020 for some $60M,” Nicholas said.
“The fact that LIAT will return leaner and it will be in a better position to overcome some of the traditional problems spells good fortune for some of these displaced LIAT workers because they are trained and competent and they may have opportunities for re-employment,” he said.
A few months ago, an MOU was signed between the government and a private entity for the new carrier’s operations.
Under this agreement, the carrier will operate a fleet of small, medium, and large aircraft within the Caribbean, as well as serving South America and international routes from Europe.