Weston: unions frustrating LIAT compassionate payment offer
Over 100 ex-LIAT employees awaiting severance and other entitlements have apparently accepted the compassionate payment offer made by the Antigua and Barbuda government in December.
Minister Lennox Weston made the disclosure on Observer’s Big Issues show on Sunday, claiming more workers are also willing to sign but that unions negotiating on their behalf have advised against it.
“The individuals are ready to sign; if they were to come in individually and sign, we would have over 400 of them signing already,” Weston, who represents the Antigua and Barbuda government’s interest on the LIAT board, said.
The government released a statement in late December indicating that it was providing EC$2 million to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the “compassionate payout” to locally-based former employees of the regional carrier which is currently in administration.
The statement, issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, said the funds were being made available for distribution via those tasked with wrapping up the airline’s affairs.
It said the money was “a compassionate payment, intended to bring some Christmas cheer to those who have been unable to earn incomes since they were severed” and that “the payment is limited to former LIAT workers resident in Antigua and Barbuda”.
Union leaders have argued that workers would be waiving their rights to other monies owed if they accept the offer.
Weston said that was misleading.
“From a straight accounting point of view, there will not be much after LIAT is liquidated for the workers to receive.
“If they think they are signing away some hard-earned money that they would get from liquidation, it is a fallacy. This is why I am saying, if it is liquidated and they see what they get then they will see that the offer from the government is compassionate,” Weston said.
Former LIAT workers have been fighting for almost two years since the airline collapsed to get more than EC$120 million owed in severance and other benefits.
The government has made several offers to cover at least 50 percent of the severance and union officials have rejected each offer.
General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union David Massiah recently accused the government of “raping the workers’ rights”. He said some employees who had accepted the compassionate offer had received just a fraction of the amount they were expecting.
Owned by a handful of Caribbean shareholder governments, LIAT 1974 Ltd had provided crucial regional connectivity for decades but folded when the Covid pandemic exacerbated its long-standing financial woes.