President of the Leeward Islands Airlines Pilot Association Patterson Thompson is appalled and dismayed that the shareholder government of LIAT (1974) Ltd left out talks about severance to ex-employees at their recent meeting.
LIAT shareholders Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados, and St Vincent and the Grenadines made it clear that their discussion on August 2nd was primarily to decide on the creation of a new airline or a rebooted carrier, LIALPA expected the highly contentious issue of severance would have been discussed.
However, to their dismay, the topic never even came up at the virtual meeting.
“We are struggling and we would like some attention paid to our plight. It has been very difficult to survive in these times and we just find it very hard that our prime ministers did not address this from a collective point of view…,” Thompson said.
LIALPA also issued a statement on Monday, saying that they are appalled and dismayed that the unsettled issue of payment of owed entitlements to the terminated employees of the company was not discussed at the recently concluded virtual meeting.
“We find it disgraceful that discussions on a new entity could be addressed with such urgency, while over six hundred former employees who continue to face harsh economic conditions have not been given equal attention or any attention at all,” LIALPA said in the widely circulated document.
Nevertheless, LIALPA remains optimistic and hopeful that payment of the owed entitlements will be satisfactorily addressed at subsequent meetings of regional prime ministers.
“We have always advocated the importance of the airline for regional integration, tourism, and to regional economies,” LIALPA said.
The shareholder governments also agreed to engage the services of an aviation consultancy firm – as had been previously touted – to develop a long-term plan to ensure the sustainability of LIAT and the provision of affordable air transportation.
But LIALPA believes that a new study now may be superfluous in light of the several studies which have been completed in the past, the recommendations of which have never been implemented.
They are suggesting that perhaps these funds and efforts would be better used to relieve the plight of the former workers and their families.
“We strongly encourage the shareholder prime ministers and other regional leaders to emulate the Prime Minister of St Lucia the Honourable Philip Pierre in declaring in Parliament that he will pay all owed entitlements to former St. Lucian employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd,” the Pilots Association said.
Hundreds of LIAT workers were terminated more than two years ago when the Covid pandemic exacerbated the airline’s long-standing financial woes by grounding it for several months.