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‘Broke’ former LIAT workers plead for help, severance


Barry Alleyne

‘Broke’ former LIAT workers plead for help, severance
Former LIAT workers in a huddle after speaking to the media at the office of Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley. (Picture by Jameel Springer/FILE)

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The Barbadian former employees of LIAT 1974 Limited are at the end of their tether.

It’s gotten so bad, depression has set in across the board, and one former employee even attempted suicide in the past year.

And that’s why they made an emotional plea this morning to Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and the Government of Barbados to come to their aid as a matter of urgency.

Captain Neil Cave, pilot Ronald Field, and Senior Cabin Crew officer Kelly-Ann Franklin were all moved to tears during a press conference at the office of the Opposition Leader in Worthing, Christ Church, where they laid bare their feelings about life since being severed by the regional airline a little over a year ago.

Cave, the spokesperson for the laid-off workers, revealed a last-ditch letter was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, and they were hopeful of another meeting to at least discuss some temporary financing alternative.

Just under 100 Barbadian workers who were based in LIAT’s Antigua and Barbuda officers were laid off last April, and are yet to receive a cent of their severance pay.

“This is an unjust situation,” Cave told the media.  “We are fully aware of the environment we are in with COVID-19 and we understand the frustration in Barbados, but we’ve had to go through this situation penniless with no severance pay, no vacation pay, and we were told last April this was a temporary thing.”

“Our pleas have been ignored by LIAT 1974 Limited. We have our daily bills to pay, and we brought these concerns before to the Government of Barbados,” the former senior captain added.

Cave said they met on three occasions with their union, the National Union of Public Workers, as well as with Government officials, including Mottley and Minister of Labour Colin Jordan, but here they were again today, still broke, and having no idea in some instances where their next meal would come from.

“We are still begging for some help. Some of us have been evicted. Some of us have lost our homes, our cars. We’ve even had one former worker attempt to take their own life,” the veteran pilot revealed.

Cave said a letter last June from head of LIAT’s four shareholder governments, Prime Minister of St Vincent Dr Ralph Gonsalves had also given them hope when he said the workers would be dealt with first, but alas, they remained broke in most cases.

“We need our severance to move on with our daily lives,” he said, his voice cracking every few minutes.

Field spoke of his personal challenges since being laid off, as did Franklin, who revealed she and her sister, also a flight attendant, had used up their entire savings and were now dependent on family members for daily assistance.

Opposition Leader, Bishop Joseph Atherley said the involvement of the People’s party for Democracy and Development was not a partisan intervention, but merely one to facilitate the voices of the former workers being heard.

He noted that when all was said and done, they were Barbadian, and the Mottley administration had already gone out of its way to secure finance for people in other sectors also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (BA)