ABWU stands by its 100% severance settlement for former LIAT workers

Editorial Staff

Apr 5, 2023

The Union representing former LIAT workers is dismissing the government’s latest 32% severance offer.

Last week, the government, through its weekly Cabinet briefing, said that it was giving thought to providing 32% of severance for the former employees of LIAT 1974 Ltd to settle its “moral” obligation to the staff

But in a response on Wednesday night, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union said it considers this latest position by the Government an insult to the workers and a “continuation of the high-handed approach that the Government has taken on this issue; an approach that has yielded nothing but a convoluted and dismal pathway to settlement”.

The ABWU said the government’s latest position begs the question, “how would individuals who have accepted the previous “compassionate offer” fit into this new arrangement? Is the Government going to administer two regimes of settlement? How can this be equitable? Furthermore, how can the Government be trusted to make good on this proposed arrangement when it has failed to settle all of its obligations to those workers who opted into taking the first tranche of the “compassionate offer”?

This unilateral approach according to the ABWU continues to yield nothing but confusion!

“The Union maintains that a fair and reasonable settlement must acknowledge the workers’ just claim to 100% of severance comprising a majority cash component and the remainder organized as shares in any future derivative of LIAT. We do not and cannot accept that it is justifiable for the workers to relinquish their terminal benefits and settle for a fraction of their entitlements while the Airline continues to operate in a state of administration, which was scheduled to have lasted only four months”, the statement added

Furthermore, the ABWU said this July will mark three years since Liat (1974) Ltd. entered into administration and there are many lingering questions.

“What has this process yielded thus far? What is the projected outcome of the administration process and when will it end? Who stands to benefit from the liquidated assets? Will the Government be forthcoming about the value of the liquidated assets?”

The ABWU believes that three years of administration seems to be more than enough time for the Administrator and the Government to have determined the future of Liat and set in motion a reasonable plan to settle the outstanding severance for the workers.

“But what has plagued this process is the lack of transparency by the Government and the Administrator, as well as their outright refusal to be forthcoming with regards to the entire administration process,” the statement added

The Union is calling for closure to the situation which they claimed has been lingering for far too long.

They are calling for “urgent closure” saying that the “prolonged administration process appears to be nothing more than a tactic to escape the severance obligations”

The ABWU wants a definitive timeline to conclude this process.

“We believe that the Government, like the workers and many people across the region, would wish to see the Airline saved. But this cannot be at the demise of the workers who kept the Liat afloat for decades. A solution to both crises – outstanding severance for former Liat staff and regional travel – is best resolved at the negotiating table, in good faith, transparency, and in a spirit of genuine dialogue”, the statement added.

Irrespective of what appears to be hostility between Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the ABWU over the severance matter, the union wants a coming together to help resolve the issue once and for all

“In other words, we must work together and not against each other. The Governments of Barbados and St Lucia have accepted responsibility for settling 100% severance entitlements for their citizens who were employed by Liat (1974) Ltd. At the very least, this sets a moral precedent for the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and reminds shareholder Governments to do the same – not in part as proposed by the Gaston Browne Administration – but in full”, the statement added

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union stands said it is standing by its call for 100% severance settlement for the workers of Liat (1974) Ltd, and “we maintain that this liability falls on the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as a former shareholder, and even more so having assumed interest in the ongoing administration process, and being the main party pursuing a reconstitution of Liat”.

The Union said it remains ready to engage in dialogue on this matter of severance and the forging of a strong regional airline


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