The General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union Senator David Massiah has launched a scathing attack on the government, more so Prime Minister Gaston Browne, for what the ABWU said is his failure to give proper attention to the plight of former LIAT workers.
Senator Massiah, the general secretary of the ABWU agitation rose higher after learning that the Mia Mottley government in Barbados made good on her government promise to settle ex-LIAT workers’ payments
“After three years of financial and emotional distress, LIAT’s ex-employees in Barbados are beginning to rebuild their lives as the Government is now making good on its earlier commitment to satisfy workers’ demand for 100% severance settlement. Just last week, many ex-employees began receiving their cheques from the Barbados Government,” Massiah said in a statement to the media on Wednesday afternoon
He said the decision of the Barbados Government to concede to the workers’ claim for 100% severance validates the workers’ and Unions’ stance that full severance — 100% — is the only reasonable settlement.
Massiah said however, “Despite this clear precedent set by the Mottley Administration, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has disgracefully reduced its so-called “compassionate” offer from 50% to 32% of severance, with a looming threat to completely withdraw any form of settlement if ex-employees do not accept this offer”
Although his accusations have been denied by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on many occasions, Massiah said the “Government’s aim has always been to bully the workers into accepting a less-than-satisfactory offer; there has never been a genuine interest in properly concluding this matter”
The ABWU boss is also taking issue with the government’s thrust to pursue a relationship with Air Peace, an airline from Nigeria that will invest in the new LIAT 2020
“But why haven’t the Prime Minister and his Government displayed a similar level of urgency and empathy when it comes to the former workers’ severance? Why isn’t the severance of these workers a priority for the Gaston Browne administration? To add insult to injury, the Prime Minister continues to boast that his government is free of all legal obligations to the workers while witnessing the ensuing suffering his uncaring actions have created,” Massiah said
Adding, “However, we wish to remind the Prime Minister that there are two ILO Conventions and one ILO Recommendation that provide specific guidance on addressing worker claims in the event of enterprise insolvency: They are 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)”
Meanwhile, on the matter of the Administration of Liat 1974 Ltd, Massiah said the ABWU is gravely concerned that after three years, the court-appointed Administrator, Mr. Cleveland Seaforth has made no effort to apprise the Union, workers, or the general public on the developments or outcomes of the administration given their significant interest in this process.
“One would expect that at least on a point of courtesy, some form of communication would have been provided to the Union and workers in the spirit of transparency, and to reach a reasonable settlement. But everything that has unfolded about the administration process has been shrouded in secrecy. In recent days, the indication coming from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda is that a new LIAT 2020 is on the horizon. According to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, this new LIAT will be the “sustainable solution” to regional travel leaving all the legacy issues behind,” he said
Massiah said Browne must come clean with the people of Antigua and Barbuda and reveal whether he intends to leave the worker’s severance behind as he peruses LIAT 2020
“The reality is that any new airline built on the plunder of workers’ entitlements could never be a sustainable solution! On the contrary, a sustainable solution to regional travel can emerge only where the enduring principles of justice, dignity, and respect for the rights of workers are foundational pillars,” he said
According to Massiah, all stakeholders in regional travel must be willing to embrace the principles of tripartism, evidenced through genuine engagement and dialogue with workers and their representatives.
“Anything short of this would inevitably collapse. We again call on the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to do the right thing. Satisfying the worker’s claim to 100% severance is the morally acceptable position based on the arrangements made by the Governments of Barbados and St Lucia” he added
The ABWU he said is prepared to accept an offer similar to that made by the Mottley Administration; up to 75,000 in cash and any amount above that to be paid in bonds.
“Mr. Prime Minister, do the noble thing! Let us meet at the negotiating table and settle this issue of severance so we can move forward together in finding a sustainable solution for regional travel,” Massiah added.