LIAT ex-workers need justice after two years being laid off
The travesty of justice that is the plight of hundreds of LIAT ex-workers drags into 2022, two years after it began to fester. It was triggered in no small part by Barbados’ abrupt withdrawal from a vital but cash strapped air carrier and fellow shareholder Antigua and Barbuda’s tone-deaf intransigence to these men and women who kept it in the air.
Since April 2020, over 90 per cent of LIAT’s staff have been laid off.
Three months later, the bankrupt airline landed in the hands of the Antiguan High Court which appointed an administrator, mandated the airline’s re-organisation and stayed all proceedings for the company’s liquidation.
Another three months later, the staff was made redundant. Pilots, flight attendants, engineers, ground-support personnel and more were sent home without the severance money to which they are legally and morally entitled.
Salaries and severance entitlements were said to be in excess of over 120 million dollars. They received nothing – not even the empathy, action and diligence of governments that are elected and mandated to uphold and defend workers’ rights, justice and equity.
These empty-handed workers with mortgages to pay and families to support made a desperate plea to the shareholder governments to address their plight.
None was forthcoming.
In May 2021, the Mia Mottley administration provided to Barbadian ex-workers a one-off gift of $2,000 and an advance of $2,000 per month to be recovered from any eventual severance settlement.
Yet again, the former workers approached their former employer seeking to secure what they had earned over the years.
The Gaston Browne administration in St John’s which took over sole control of LIAT then offered their own nationals a one-time “compassionate payment” offer of half their severance in cash, bonds and land. Then late last year it made available two million dollars of the cash portion to the airline’s receiver to distribute to them.
The unions representing the ex-employees have branded the two million dollar payout as Government’s attempts towards “seeking to bribe employees into accepting whatever it has placed on the table with respect to the employees’ entitlements”.
As the new year turned, the chairman of the Leeward Island Pilots Association, Patterson Thompson, disclosed that another last-ditch plea was made to Barbados for an emergency meeting with the other shareholders to conclude a severance pay package for all terminated employees.
The workers, he said, were at their wits’ end.