While Caribbean leaders recognize the importance of a regional airline, the Secretary General of the Antigua and Barbuda Worker’s Union (ABWU), Senator David Massiah, reminds governments of their obligations to former LIAT workers demanding severance payments.
“I have no issues with reviving LIAT. We need a viable air transport for the region. There’s so much talk about LIAT 2020, which is quite fine; the issue is that governments must not renege on their obligation to address the severance of the former worker,” Senator Massiah said.
He said the issue of workers’ severance is still a very important part that must be finalized.
“The governments should not be playing political football with this issue but seek to deal with their residents and to give them some reasonable understanding as to how we are going to move forward,” he said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently criticized InterCaribbean Airways for its service and is awaiting proposals for a new LIAT.
Aviation Minister Juan Edghill of Guyana also complained about the Turks and Caicos-based airline, warning that they could face sanctions if flight delays were not sufficiently alleviated.
Caribbean customers have been frustrated with long flight delays, causing them to miss international connecting flights and forcing many to purchase new tickets.
The Antiguan and Barbudan government has been pushing for the resuscitation of LIAT.
Still, the issue of severance payments to former LIAT workers remains a sticking point between regional trade unions.
Senator Massiah emphasizes that the involvement of workers is crucial for the success of any viable air travel transport in the Caribbean region.
Meanwhile, Senator Massiah says there continues to be deafening silence from Cleveland Seaforth, the court-appointed administrator for the cash-strapped regional airline LIAT (1974) Limited.
Senator Massiah said the administrator had kept the employees and their bargaining agents in the dark on relevant issues regarding the airline and the company.
He said that the administrator must explain to the union what the liquidation means to the former and present airline employees and the way forward.
The ABWU boss said the public deserves transparency from the administrator, who has been in charge for over three years despite the initial plan for a 120-day tenure.
“The government and administrator’s lack of communication is unacceptable and we demand clarity on how to proceed” he said
Senator Massiah also emphasized the importance of protecting the severance rights of those who have been working, which are safeguarded by international conventions.
LIAT, owned primarily by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, went into administration in July 2020 due to mounting debt and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.