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The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union was looking into different ways to offer severance payments to former LIAT (1974) Ltd employees just before the airline ceased commercial flying operations.
Last Thursday, the Administrator of LIAT (1974) Limited, Cleaveland Seaforth, informed the company’s staff that they would be made redundant without pay from February 4, 2024. This decision will impact over 90 employees who will lose their jobs.
It is unclear what obligations the company recognizes, but Seaforth promised that they will be met. He also stated that the company will provide applicable entitlements to employees within 45 days of his letter, after the necessary computations have been completed.
The Administrator assured that the company will follow its legal and contractual requirements to ensure the best possible outcome with respect to employees’ indebtedness.
However, the General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union, Senator David Massiah, criticized Seaforth’s decision-making process.
Senator Massiah stated that the union was not consulted on any decision related to former and current staff, despite sending several letters to Seaforth seeking clarification on the situation.
He also expressed concern about the lack of transparency and communication between LIAT’s management and the union, which raised questions about the fairness of the redundancy process. Senator Massiah said that the ABWU has written to Seaforth again seeking answers on the way forward.
The matter of severance pay for LIAT employees has been a subject of ongoing discussions and debate since the airline experienced a significant downturn in 2020 due to Covid-19.
The government has expressed concerns about cash flow and its own limited ownership stake in LIAT (32%), stating that it cannot bear the full cost of severance payments for affected workers.
This has left many workers uncertain about their financial future, as they face the possibility of never receiving the compensation they are entitled to. Despite these challenges, the ABWU has been pursuing legal avenues to ensure that workers receive the severance pay they deserve.
Senator Massiah confirmed that the union’s legal team is currently exploring various strategies to achieve this goal, and remains committed to advocating for the rights and interests of LIAT workers during this challenging time.
The government had offered former LIAT workers a compassionate payment of 50%, which was later reduced to 35%, but only a small percentage of these workers reportedly took advantage of the one-time offer, with the majority declining it.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has pledged to invest around EC$30 million to guarantee that LIAT (2020) Ltd has all necessary aircraft, maintenance, and operational arrangements in place for safe, reliable, and efficient service delivery to the region’s people.