Union denies rejecting offer for LIAT workers
St. John’s – The Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) denied reports that it had rejected an offer made by the government to provide a compassionate payment to the former employees of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.
Speaking on radio, ABWU general secretary David Massiah said the union is still awaiting a response from a May 19 letter sent to the court-appointed administrator of the airline, Cleveland Seaforth on the payment to the former workers.
A story posted on the Facebook page of Prime Minister Browne said the union had rejected the offer of a 50 percent severance payment entitled to the workers to be paid in cash and bonds.
According to the story, Browne indicated that the offer will not change.
But Massiah said: “We think that the offer is something that we would have to base on what we hear, most of us whilst we are not happy that that is what it is, 50 percent is better than nothing, so we never discarded it.
“I mean there are a number of stuff that we still think needs to be answered. It can’t just be carte blanche. We said 50 percent of total earnings of all their entitlements, and they never came back to us.
“My letter went to Mr. Seaforth, dated the 19th of May, we have not received a response since.”
Massiah said there had not been a rejection of the offer made, adding “all they have to do is respond to the letters that we have sent to the government that is what would basically make it”.
“This is a negotiating process and so we don’t see it as a rejection,” he said. “We have countered and put certain things on the table and asked certain questions to arrive at a particular place because while the Prime Minister is talking about lands…and so on I don’t know how that was going to settle with my people, let’s say in Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados.
“Where would they be getting lands from? Is it that they would own lands in Antigua? This is why there are a number of things still need to be clarified.”
LIAT, which is currently under a court-approved administrator arrangement in Antigua & Barbuda, is undergoing restructuring in an effort to stave off liquidation.
The airline, which is owned by the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG), owes millions of dollars in severance and other entitlements to terminated workers from across the region.
Last year, Browne said that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to Antigua & Barbuda for EC $1 (BB $0.74) each.
LIAT operated its first flight to Dominica in November last year following a seven-month absence, and in the later months, began operating a limited schedule of flights that had been affected by the closure of several airports as a result of the efforts by regional governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19.