LIAT strike intensifies
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Unions representing workers employed with the regional airline, LIAT, Tuesday night warned that they were prepared to join the industrial action at the airline, if Captain Michael Blackburn, who was dismissed with immediate effect on Monday, is not reinstated.
Hundreds of passengers across the region were left stranded on Tuesday as the airline’s 110 scheduled flights were either disrupted or cancelled as pilots called in sick, no doubt in solidarity with Blackburn, who is also chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA).
Chairman of the unions within the LIAT system, Grenadian trade unionist, Chester Humphrey told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the dismissal of Blackburn, a pilot with more than three decades experience, had been done on spurious grounds.
“…We are dealing here with principles in the trade union business. Captain Blackburn after more than 35 years of service to LIAT and…has been dismissed on spurious grounds,” said Humphrey.
He said that Blackburn in his letter of dismissal is alleged to have made “certain statements about the management of LIAT”.
Humphrey said that the unions are of the opinion that Blackburn had been singled out by the airline and “his dismissal is tantamount to a brazen victimisation. It is meant to silence the union.
“It is an open secret… that unions are dissatisfied with the quality of managerial decisions taken by LIAT over the years and quite often a lot of these decisions have been wrong, a lot of these decisions have cost the company millions of dollars and from time to time we have had questions about the competence of LIAT management.”
Humphrey said in his capacity as chairman of the unions representing LIAT workers, he wrote to the airline on Tuesday on the issue and warned “regional unions demand an immediate and complete withdrawal of the letter of termination and the full reinstatement of Captain Blackburn forthwith.
“We are prepared to take any and all action necessary to achieve this objective and the pilots are assured of our collective solidarity,” he wrote.
He said the unions were already coordinating “further action” within the LIAT system, describing the dismissal as “a provocative act”.
Meanwhile, LIALPA has issued a statement indicating that its executive council met to discuss the situation and that it is “most disturbed by the unprecedented actions of LIAT (1974) Ltd where the chairman of the association has been terminated in speaking in his capacity as chairman.
“Notwithstanding that fact LIAT (1974) Ltd has bypassed the accepted procedures in the collective agreement. Captain Blackburn was not afforded the opportunity to confirm or deny these charges,” the pilots said.
LIALPA also claimed that the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code speaks to the procedures for dismissals of employees and the laws of nature justice were not followed.
“LIALPA insist that LIAT (1974) Ltd rescind the letter of termination of employment to Captain Michael Blackburn and reinstate him with immediate effect,” it said, adding that it was also “requesting assistance of the other unions in this process.
“LIALPA remains committed to the general public and to the social contract with the people of the Caribbean.”