Unions to meet with LIAT shareholder govts
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada – Unions representing workers employed with the regional airline, LIAT, are to meet with the shareholder governments in Barbados on January 30, chairman of the Regional Grouping of Trade Unions, Chester Humphrey has said.
Humphrey told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the meeting involving the governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines would be to discuss the new strategic plan for the airline being developed by the Business Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
“We had indicated before that prior to such a meeting, well in advance of such a meeting we would want to have copies of that strategic plan of LIAT,” he said, noting that it has been under consideration for nearly two years.
“What we are saying is prior to any further retrenchment, just after the closure of the city offices, we made it absolutely clear to the company that we would need a copy of that plan…so that we could understand issues of manpower requirements, how does the restructuring going to affect the manpower requirements, what is the state of capitalisation of the company….”
But he said that “to the best of my knowledge that plan has not yet come into the possession of the trade unions and the meeting is carded for the 30th and it certainly would not give us adequate time to study that plan because it will require us subjecting that plan to professional scrutiny as well.
“In other words the unions would have to take advice in order to cast a response. In the meantime the company has proceeded to serve notices within one division in Antigua of the retrenchment of employees and we view this very dimly because we believe it is a breach of the common understanding that we have.
“We believe it is a further indication of the provocative stance that the LIAT management has adopted,” he said, noting that such a position had already resulted in the dismissal of Captain Michael Blackburn last year.
Blackburn, who also resigned as Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) chairman, was summarily dismissed by LIAT on December 5 and the action led to a two-day sickout by pilots that crippled the airline’s operations and leaving thousands of passengers across the region stranded.
The airline, which operates 110 schedule flights daily, has maintained its position regarding the decision to dismiss the experienced Blackburn indicating there were “appropriate remedies” for their grievance under the established procedures of the Labour Code and other legislation..
Humphrey said that the unions are still insisting that the dismissed senior pilot be reinstated “since there was no basis to maintain that dismissal”.
He said the airline could look at the possibility of suspending Blackburn “while we go through the process, they have not complied with that.
“So LIAT management is creating an industrial environment that could not be conducive for the airline and the employees generally,” he added. (CMC)