The union representing former LIAT 1974 ltd workers has released a statement, condemning what they say are attempts by Prime Minister Gaston Browne to circumvent the bargaining agent in the severance matter.
Browne has closed the doors on further talks with the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union and signaled his intention to speak directly to the former workers about their much-needed severance pay.
But the ABWU General Secretary David Massiah said Thursday that the Prime Minister is fully aware that such a move is a contravention of the legally established process and a direct assault on globally established conventions and practices in labour relations.
“Moreover, this is a grave transgression against the principles of good governance and representative democracy. The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union takes this threat very seriously” he said.
In the strongly worded media statement, Massiah extended a call to the over 30,000 workers and union members that are protected by the Unions operating in this country, including the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) — to publicly condemn this attack on the labour movement, to condemn the PM’s remarks.
“Prime Minister Gaston Browne will not undermine this or any other Union in Antigua and Barbuda! Lest we forget, it is the Unions that fought and brought an end to the exploitation in the sugar industry and among the earliest dock workers,” he added.
Massiah recalled that it is the Union that elevated the standard of living and quality of life for tens of thousands of workers and it was the same Union that protected millions of dollars in terminal benefits for workers over the past several decades.
“What we have achieved in the labour movement is a powerful and relentless force that will stop at nothing to protect the interest of workers. Therefore, we indeed caution the Prime Minister to temper his rhetoric and abandon any sinister plot to circumvent the legally recognized bargaining agent for the workers of LIAT (1974) Ltd” Massiah added.
And on a softer note, Massiah said the Unions agreed with the initial stance taken by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as a Shareholder of LIAT (1974) Ltd. not to liquidate and collapse the airline but to find ways of making LIAT a going concern.
“We must applaud the Governments of St Lucia and Barbados for accepting and implementing arrangements for paying LIAT (1974) Ltd. employees 100% of their severance entitlements plus other direct entitlements. It must be remembered that the collective position of the Unions from the onset of this unfortunate development, was that there should be a 70% disbursement of cash to all affected LIAT employees and the remaining 30% of terminal benefit entitlements could be organized as shares in LIAT (1974) Ltd. or in any other LIAT formulation going forward,” he said
And “no opportunity has been given to the Unions to have this and other pertinent and relevant matters ventilated and agreed upon”.
The ABWU boss said this divide-and-rule attitude by the Prime Minister and his Government is counter-productive and will not work in the best interest of the employees and is certainly not the right posture for resolving the broader question of regional travel.
“Hence, we implore Prime Minister Gaston Browne, once again, to meet the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union at the negotiating table. Engagement with the Union is essential to ensure that the workers received a fair and reasonable settlement. Let there be no more unnecessary delays in ending the suffering of the workers of LIAT (1974) Ltd”, he added.
Meanwhile, the government remains adamant that it will seek to resolve the issue on a regional level
Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Max Hurst said this morning that the government of Antigua and Barbuda will now seek a regional solution “rather than allowing the unions to try to extract from the government of Antigua and Barbuda 100% of the amounts owed to the workers of LIAT.”
Hurst said “and so from henceforth, it will collaborate with all four shareholder governments and their unions or rather than the Antigua Workers Union only,” Hurst said.
The only thing this union is really concerned about is it’s 10% it will receive from any settlement.
From PERSONAL experience it cares nothing about workers and protecting the rights of works. It is ONLY concerned about the 10% it will receive from any settlement. Hence it is pushing for cash and cash only.
St. Lucia offered Bonds only to it’s citizens.
Barbados offering one time only FULL and FINAL PAYMENT of $75, 000.00 and additional amount will be BONDS
But you want Antigua to pay 100% in cash ONLY!
How I see it all the other countries using the Antigua Government module to decide how they treat their people. But you want us to think Antigua Government is unfair!
We following. We not taking your words only.
LIAT workers let us wake up. This union is not interested in us. They interested in themselves and making Gaston look bad.
We are not fooled.
Once a company or business close the workers are entitled to 100% of the severance but the package can be negotiable but it’s best to do so as a group with proper advice from a union or other legal source you will loose more than the 10% the union or legal counsel will get don’t be fooled…