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The government has approximately one million dollars left from the budget allocation set aside to be disbursed as compassionate payments to the former workers of LIAT 1974 Ltd.
The government had initially allocated about two million dollars for this purpose, but not all the workers accepted the payment offer, based on the advice of their bargaining agent, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union.
Lionel Max Hurst, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, was asked whether the government expects further developments.
Hurst said the monies are still available for these workers and they should stop paying attention to their bargaining agent, the ABWU
“We still have about a million dollars in the account…these pilots and other workers who have been paying attention to the ABWU ought not. It is not in their best interest [to listen to their union]. They need to take what is offer because it is a good offer,” he said
Hurst said based on the conditions, the ABWU will not be able to “squeeze any more [money] from the government.
The issue of severance for former LIAT workers has been a contentious one, particularly for those in Antigua and Barbuda, since the airline went into receivership in 2020.
Despite ongoing negotiations with the government, the offer made to the Union was deemed insufficient, with accusations of bullying being leveled.
As a result, the severance packages for former workers remain unsettled.
The ABWU said it wants to continue the negotiation process with the government and it never left the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, the government is moving ahead with plans to establish LIAT 2020, which is expected to take to the skies as early as this month.
In order to make this happen, the government is in the process of buying the three aircraft owned by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) that were previously used by the inter-regional airline, LIAT 1974 Ltd, which was dissolved late last month.
A statement issued after the weekly cabinet meeting indicated that Prime Minister Gaston Browne had made an offer to purchase the aircraft during a Zoom meeting with CDB and representatives of the LIAT (1974) shareholders.
While the amount being proposed to acquire the aircraft was not disclosed, talks were due to continue throughout the week.
According to the statement, after the sale is consummated, the three aircraft will form the basis of the fleet that will establish LIAT 2020 as a viable entity.
The airline, owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, ended its operations in its current form on January 24th of this year, after having been under administration since July 24th, 2020.
While the dissolution of LIAT (1974) Ltd may have signaled the end of the road for the company in its current form, the court-appointed administrator, Cleveland Seaforth, made it clear that the company would not be shying away from its obligations to its former employees on severance, vacation pay, retroactive pay, and any outstanding salaries.
He indicated that the company recognizes its obligation as it relates to any of the aforementioned entitlements, which will be provided to former employees under separate cover within 45 days of his letter after the respective computations have been completed.
In December of last year, Prime Minister Browne, during his country’s national budget, spoke of the critical role that the CDB would play in solidifying the arrangement among the governments, adding that it would set the stage for finalizing the agreement with Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline founded in 2013.
This would enable LIAT 2020 to begin operations and secure a promising future for regional travel.