Steven Cotton, the General Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation has written to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, telling him that they are concerned about his treatment of the LIAT matter.
Browne and the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union have been at loggerheads over payment for these former workers on who should pay 100% of the severance owed.
Cotton told Browne in his letter dated March 23, that Thousands of LIAT workers lost their jobs without any guarantee of any compensation or continuing social cover.
“Since the company’s liquidation, these workers and their families have been going through a very difficult time both financially and emotionally. Some former employees of the carrier remain uncompensated since 2020. They were promised the launch of a new carrier called LIAT 2020 but this remains hindered by the lack of a long-term funding plan” Cotton said
He said to Browne, that under these conditions, his [PM Browne’s] public statement concerning the ABLP government’s plans to provide partial “compassionate assistance” to former LIAT workers bypassing trade unions is totally unacceptable as it does not respect relevant International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards”.
Two ILO Conventions and one ILO Recommendation specifically address worker claims in the event of enterprise insolvency: the ILO Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95), the ILO Protection of Workers’ Claims (Employer’s Insolvency) Convention, 1992 (No. 173), and the Protection of Workers’ Claims (Employer’s Insolvency) Recommendation, 1992 (No. 180).
And Cotton said moreover, the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) comments on C173 are vitally important.
“Your statement is in inconsistency with these ILO standards, which should be taken into consideration not only by the government of Antigua and Barbuda but by the governments of Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well,” Cotton said.
He is also writing to all shareholder governments to express his concerns about their failure to meet the test of international rules concerning the treatment of LIAT workers.
“In such a critical circumstance, genuine dialogue with trade unions is very much needed as only such an approach can contribute to a better, more transparent, and more efficient solution to the problem. If the aim is to protect workers’ wage claims in enterprise insolvency, then mutual trust and cooperation are prerequisites for achieving effective, balanced, and viable outcomes,” he wrote.
Cotton ended his letter by urging Browne to involve ABWU and other relevant unions in the region to agree on appropriate assistance to LIAT employees that could support them and their families after years of distress.
“I will be in Antigua during the week commencing 17 April, when the ITF will be hosting a series of meetings, and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you then to discuss further, together with representatives of the ABWU,” he added.
Prime Minister Browne is taking a regional front on negotiations saying that he won’t discuss the matter with the ABWU, who he said is unreasonable to even suggest that the government fully compensates former LIAT working, knowing well that the state only owns 34 percent of the shares in the troubled airline.