ABWU says PM’s offer to ex-LIAT workers is anything but compassionate

Editorial Staff

Mar 7, 2023

Prime Minister Gaston Browne and General Secretary of the ABWU David Massiah

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union has made another attempt for Prime Minister Gaston Browne to commence dialogue on the severance for former LIAT workers, telling him it’s the most “reasonable and mature” thing to do.

David Massiah, the General Secretary of the ABWU in a statement released last night responded to suggestions by Browne that unless the other shareholder governments are in attendance, he won’t be discussing the issue of severance with any unions.

“Prime Minister Gaston Browne, how many times will you attempt to bully and disgrace the unions and the workers into accepting, without any negotiation, an offer that is anything but compassionate?”, Massiah said in the statement.

He said in his last series of “misleading and outright deceptive comments on this matter”. The prime minister accused the workers and the unions of being inflexible and unwilling to negotiate.

However, according to the ABWU boss, it is the unions that have been pleading for dialogue with your administration and the court-appointed administrator, by way of written correspondence, for almost two years.

“The workers, by contrast, have been extraordinarily flexible with the shareholder governments on this matter. Do I need to remind you that it was the said workers who agreed in principle to your suggestion of a “haircut” on their entitlements to save the airline? But you, Mr. Gaston Browne, have since taken a unilateral approach as to how this settlement of terminal benefits is configured,” Massiah said

Massiah recalled that in a correspondence dated May 19, 2021, addressed to Mr. Cleveland Seaforth, the Union indicated its willingness to “favorably and willingly accept” the 50% compassionate offer, but with certain conditionalities which were outlined. Despite our attempts to encourage discussion on these conditionalities, your administration has been vehemently opposed to such dialogue.

Moreover, he said the conditions that the ABUW put forward are not unreasonable.

“We have asked for, and continue to reiterate that this settlement arrangement covers terminal benefits (computed severance payments, outstanding vacation payments, outstanding wage and salary payments to affected employees, etc.) and that the upfront cash component is the only reasonable and logical way to go under the current circumstances and situations of the employees, and should be given effect almost immediately,” he said.

The ABWU also requested that the compassionate offer should not and indeed do not represent the final and full claim of severance payments and other legitimate and legally-entitled terminal benefits of the employees.

It is considered an interim partial payment of the employee’s entitlements.

“These, along with a few other conditions outlined in the correspondence are not overly contentious matters. Again, in a follow-up correspondence on June 15 2021, we pleaded for dialogue”

Massiah said, the ABWU, as the legal bargaining representative for the LIAT employees cannot in any good conscience encourage the workers to accept the 50% compassionate offer in its current configuration.

“To date, the employees and the Unions have done all they could to advance this process to a fair and reasonable resolution. We have put forward our positions as a collective body within the sub-region to make it as simple as possible for the shareholder Governments to also take a collective approach on this matter. However, PM Browne, you have failed – though not surprisingly – to mobilize your colleague Prime Ministers to meet with the workers’ representatives, Massiah added.

Saying, “while we understand that the Government of Antigua & Barbuda does not see itself as solely responsible for the workers’ severance, it is the Antigua and Barbuda Government that has voluntarily taken the lead on this matter, and by default would have accepted the associated responsibility of settling severance and other terminal benefits”

Massiah said, as LIAT employees continue to suffer and cry out for the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, as a lead shareholder of LIAT, to live up to its moral and legal obligations, the ABWU remains relentless in its pursuit of justice and meaningful dialogue on the matter of the employee’s terminal benefits.

“Again, Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of the 600-plus former employees of LIAT 1794 Ltd. we impress upon you to do the mature and responsible thing and commence dialogue with the Union in earnest,” he added.


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