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Pilots’ plan to deal with LIAT

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Pilots’ plan to deal with LIAT

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ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Pilots employed with the regional airline, LIAT, today announced a new strategy in their ongoing dispute with management, indicating that they will now seek to hold talks with the three shareholder governments in the future.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados.
“Letters would be drafted and sent out to the individual prime ministers and shareholders by Friday this week, requesting a meeting,” said Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan at a news conference called by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA).
 Astaphan told reporters added that a meeting will be scheduled as soon possible.
“We want the public to know precisely where LIAT has reached with the pilots union and to understand historically how long some of these things have been festering, the sort of responses we’re getting from management and that how many of these, as you call them, underlying issues remain (a) burden forever.
“There has to come a time when this has to end and we’re really hoping. We’re praying that we can resolve this with common sense and with patience by going through the process,” Astaphan added.
LIALPA said that it has adopted a more restrained approach, even though its  membership recently voted for Chairman Michael Blackburn to take a more drastic approach to resolving long-standing issues with the airline.
“The union has given Captain Blackburn, overwhelming support and authorising industrial action to enforce certain parts of our contract,” LIALPA Secretary Captain Patterson Thompson told reporters.
“The pilots bleed too. We are normal human beings. We have our own financial issues, we have our own problems and if you think we are going to sit down and take this bad treatment day after day has to come to an end. We are reasonable people, we’re willing to sit down and meet with LIAT’s management,” Thompson added.
The pilots say they have a long list of grievances with the airline’s management, but the most contentious one concern the status of a Provident Fund and monies paid into it. They have also listed cockpit temperatures and grievance procedures as some of the issues of major concern.
The pilots say they hope the new strategies would result in an amicable solution to their problems even as they did not rule out industrial action.
“The day will come when it’s the right time for it to come because we want to exhaust all discussions with management peacefully. We want management, every single member of management to understand the union’s position on the issues.
“We want every single shareholder to understand the pilot union’s position on the issues.  We want the directors, who are appointed largely by politicians to understand the issues and what is at stake,” Astaphan told reporters. (CMC)