St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonzalves says the 50% compassionate payment offer made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne to former LIAT workers is not unreasonable Initially, the government of Antigua and Barbuda had proposed to pay the workers a compassionate payment of 50%.
However, the majority of the workers, over 90%, refused this offer. As the finance minister, Browne has repeatedly stated that it is the moral responsibility of regional governments to address the issue of severance payment for former employees.
Earlier this week, Gonsalves discussed the government’s compassionate payment offer, which has been a point of contention with the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU).
“With all the constraints and all the problems that a government has, when Gaston [Browne] offered, as I understand it, 50 percent and to give cash for some and lands or bonds or both … I didn’t think that was something unreasonable and to incur the ire of union leadership,” Dr Gonsalves said.
The ABWU has stated that any potential agreement should consist of 100% severance pay, with the majority being in cash and the remainder in shares of any future derivative of LIAT. “I am a labour man, I am a farmer man and I am a travelling public man; I want to be fair to small restaurateurs, small hoteliers, because these people are on the margins also,” Gonsalves added. Meanwhile, negotiations are currently underway to purchase the remaining assets of LIAT (1974) Ltd. by representatives of the new airline, LIAT (2020) Ltd., which is expected to replace the previous regional airline.
The Cabinet Notes from this week’s meeting of the Cabinet contain this information. According to the Notes, the Cabinet invited the Development Commissioner, Ambassador Daven Joseph, to its meeting to negotiate the terms of the final agreement between LIAT (2020) Ltd. and the principals of Air Peace in order to establish a governing agreement between both carriers. “Arrangements are also being negotiated between LIAT (2020) Ltd. and the Administrator of LIAT (1974) Ltd., Cleveland Seaforth, regarding the purchase of the assets of the latter.
The press throughout the English-speaking Caribbean has reported on LIAT being a necessary development partner throughout the Caribbean and must be resuscitated,” the Notes stated. While other states are also considering launching a new airline that would not compete with LIAT’s existing routes, LIAT (2020) Ltd. is already ahead by more than a year in its efforts to replace LIAT (1974) Ltd. Furthermore, it is expected that LIAT (2020) Ltd. will surpass its competitors as it has secured the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) and has plans to operate a total of six aircraft.