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LIAT pilots reject a call for salary cuts


LIAT pilots reject a call for salary cuts

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ST JOHN’S – Pilots of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, has rejected a call from them to take a salary cut as the Antigua-based airline seeks to reverse its financial situation.

President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIAPA), Carl Burke, said his members are very reluctant to accept the call for a salary cut at this time.

“Looking at the situation as it is right now, if we are to go forward doing the things that we are doing now, if we do not look at the scheduling, if we do not look at how we are going to generate the revenue going forward, we can give up 10 per cent now and we have no idea when the company will rebound for us to recoup that investment or even for them to start paying the staff back,” Burke said on Observer Radio here.

He said the pilots could also be in a position “where next year they come asking for an additional five per cent. We just do not have the confidence in the team”.

Earlier this month, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said progress had been made regarding the future direction of the regional airline, following a more than four hour meeting in Barbados.

The Barbados meeting was held against the move by the shareholders to get Caribbean countries to contribute a total of US$5.4 million in emergency funding need to keep the airline in the sky. At the same time, 11 destinations had been given until March 15, to respond to the airline’s minimal revenue guarantee (MRG) proposals.

Under and MRG model, it is likely that a few flights may be cut if the government is not prepared to fund them with a guarantee, Gonsalves said, adding that theoretically, several countries have no quarrel with the MRG.

Gonsalves had given the impression following the Barbados meeting that the major shareholders – Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines – were close to securing buy-in from labour into the plan, even though it would call for some sacrifice on their part.

The workers were represented by the LIALPA and the Barbados Workers’ Union, whose representatives declined to comment until they would have first reported to their members.

However, Gonsalves said the extent to which workers would be expected to sacrifice is still to be determined.

“The extent of what is to be borne we will know in a couple of days when they [the unions] talk to their members, but we had a very positive response,” he said.

During her budget presentation last week, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said that the restructuring of the airline is expected to dramatically cut the airline’s cost to the taxpayer.

“Although our goal is to eliminate the need for capital contributions to the airline altogether, our fiscal year 2019 budget includes a small subsidy assumption for minimum revenue guarantee agreements on specific flight arrivals to BGI. The exact cost will depend on ticket fares and how full the planes are, but, needless to say, we think it makes sense to guarantee specific flights given the taxes and benefits to the broader economy that accompany arrivals,” she said.

Burke told radio listeners that while the members had rejected the call for the salary cut, they were not closing the door entirely on the company.

“Of course we would have laid down some conditions which must be looked at before we could consider making such a huge investment at this time.

“As you know it took us some time to get us to where we are. We haven’t signed a contract with LIAT since 1996 and from 1996 to 2010 when we went to arbitration, the pilots had foregone at least five years of wage freeze,” he added.

The Caribbean media Corporation (CMC) has been reliably informed that workers in all the 15 destination served by airline have also rejected a salary cut. (CMC)