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LIAT mum as unions threaten strike

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LIAT mum as unions threaten strike

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ST JOHN’S – Regional airline LIAT has not yet responded to threats of region wide industrial action over its decision to make workers at its City Ticketing Offices (CTOs) redundant before completing negotiations with unions.
The unions representing all LIAT workers have warned that unless the company rescinds the letters by June 30 – the day the redundancies will take effect – and concludes discussions with the bargaining agents, “there will be an immediate regional response and that response will be industrial action”.
“We will withdraw our labour throughout the region,” Chairman of the Regional Consultative Council of Trade Unions within the LIAT System Senator Chester Humphrey told local media.
“We will be advising our members in each of the territories that as far as we are concerned, this letter is of no effect. In other words, the union and its members would not be bound by this letter. We will report to our members to report to work on the first [of July] as normal and if on the first we have not concluded the talks and report to work and their offices are closed, we will consider that an industrial lock-out and we are then free to deal with it as we see fit,” he added.
The unions’ contention is that LIAT’s management had gone against the spirit of negotiating in good faith by issuing the redundancy letters last Tuesday, three days before they were to meet with the workers’ bargaining agents to resume discussions on the protocol governing the closure of the CTOs.
That Friday morning meeting did not materialize since, although representatives of the unions showed up, they made it clear they would not have any talks unless the letters were rescinded.
So far, LIAT has not responded to that demand.
Senator Humphrey accused the airline of “breaching the whole principle of a partnership”.
However, LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer Brian Challenger last week insisted that the discussions have been ongoing for more than a year and the airline could no longer delay measures aimed at cutting costs.
“The end of June basically reflects the fact that we do need to bring some finality to this issue. It’s an issue that has been ongoing for a long period of time and we’ve had to do a number of reschedulings and this type of thing and during that time the company’s financial situation has continued to deteriorate,” he said on local radio.
“The time has come when the company, like any other company, must make decisions which sometimes are not the most favourable or the happiest ones for all involved, but we have to look at the big picture. We have to look at the survival of the company.”
In addition to closing its CTOs and moving towards booking tickets online and via telephone, a move that is expected to save the airline US$3 million annually, LIAT has also gone the route of offering Voluntary Separation and Early Retirement package to staff. 
Management has committed to responding to applicants by June 15, which is 12 days after the deadline expired. (CMC)