The General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) has declared to Prime Minister Gaston Browne that the body will not rest until the workers of LIAT 1974 Limited receive just compensation for the termination of their services.
The fierce response from the union came in response to recent statements made by the prime minister on the matter.
During an interview on his radio station on Saturday the nation’s leader stated that former workers of the Antigua-based carrier could lose out on the compassionate offer made by the government if they fail to act in a timely manner.
The government had initially offered a 50 percent offer which was rejected by the union which called for clarity and dialogue on the matter. The offer has since been whittled down to 32 percent.
In a very lengthy release to the media, Massiah stated, that much of the Prime Minister’s comments were intended to create confusion and anxiety in the minds of the former LIAT workers.
He said while the Prime Minister misses no opportunity to gloat that his government has skillfully escaped legal liability for severance, they wish to remind him that there is no escaping the fact that the government — as a shareholder of LIAT (1974) Ltd — has a moral if not total legal obligation to reach a reasonable settlement with the LIAT workers
“Most recently, the Government of Barbados has demonstrated its acceptance of this moral obligation by satisfying the former LIAT workers in that country with an ex-gratia payment equivalent to the sum due to them as a consequence of the termination of their employment”.
“But the Gaston Browne Administration, on the other hand, believes that the workers in Antigua and Barbuda are undeserving of a fair settlement, to the extent that the Prime Minister is now proudly announcing that his government’s so-called “compassionate offer” has now been reduced from 50% of severance to 32%, with threats of a complete withdrawal should the workers continue to lobby for a more reasonable settlement”, the release said.
The union boss stated that the body condemns “this disgraceful and cavalier handling of the entitlements of these workers! The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union reiterates its call for 100% severance settlement, to be comprised of a majority cash component and the remainder possibly organized as bonds and shares in any future derivative of LIAT (1974)”.
Massiah also added that the ABWU is also gravely concerned about the handling of the Administration of LIAT.
He explained that the process has been shrouded in secrecy and seems to be operating on an indefinite timeline noting that it is unacceptable.
“It has been almost three years since the airline entered into Administration and our organization has been deliberately kept in the dark despite our significant stake in the outcome of this process,” Massiah said.
The General Secretary stated further that if the Prime Minister is genuinely interested in the well-being of the workers (as he claims to be), then why hasn’t the process been more transparent.
He questioned whether there is something that the Prime Minister wishes to conceal from the Union and the workers and why has he been so vehemently opposed to dialogue with the union and the workers for over two years.
Meanwhile, the union also has stated that there are many lingering questions surrounding the administration process.
“What is the current status of the Administration by Cleveland Seaforth? 2) Have any reports been forthcoming as required by the governing legislation? 3) Importantly, has the Administrator been informing the Court of his progress and seeking the necessary time/date extensions for his continuing functioning? 4) Considering the fact that the Barbados Government has decided to pay its LIAT employees their severance entitlement, what exactly are this government’s proposals, and how soon will these be effected?,” Massiah asked.
“In an attempt to shift the spotlight from these glaring questions, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has resorted to accusing the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union of playing politics with the LIAT severance matter. However, it is the Prime Minister who has repeatedly sought to drag this matter into the sphere of politics.”, the release read.
“The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union has always existed to defend the rights of workers, while the Prime Minister on the other hand, is primarily a political actor. This Union has a long track record of securing justice for workers. Most notably, the case of the Half Moon Bay employees should serve as a reminder of the ABWU’s relentless zeal which ultimately secured severance for those workers after almost seven years. What kept this Union focused during that fight was our sacred belief that workers’ rights are human rights and that severance is a right that must be respected and administered fairly!,” it continued.
Massiah insisted the only way to resolve the LIAT severance and other related matters, is through genuine dialogue with the legally recognized Bargaining Agent for the employees which is the ABWU.
He concluded that the Prime Minister’s unilateral approach to the matter “WILL NOT WORK”