As former employees of LIAT 1974 Ltd. continue appealing to shareholder governments for their severance and other gratuities, several pilots have decided to take their fight to the courts.
A Barbados Today media report indicates that Barbadian Captain Neil Cave has filed a class action suit against the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, in which Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin is named as the sole defendant.
The article says the constitutional motion was filed last Wednesday, March 10, but was acknowledged by the Government, in writing, only on Tuesday, March 16.
Last year, the Gaston Browne Administration amended the Companies Acting a move to limit lawsuits against the Government over claims arising against LIAT, which is headquartered here.
At the time, the Government was attempting to revitalize the ailing airline, which was grounded in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suit was lodged on behalf of nine other pilots – both current and former – and is seeking to have a High Court judge in Antigua and Barbuda declare the amendment constitutional.
The pilots are also seeking costs and/or any other relief the court might deem appropriate.
“They are also requesting that the court declare that Section 564 (1) of the Companies (Amendment) Act No 17 of 2020, is in contravention of Section 15 (8) of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda,” the media report says.
The pilots believe the amendment is unconstitutional in that it attempts to limit their right to approach the court regarding a civil claim against the airline that was filed in 2015. That matter “was pending at the time the Act was enacted by Parliament.”
Accordingly, Captain Cave’s affidavit was sworn on four grounds. Among these is that Section 15 of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda guarantees a litigant access to the High Court, as well as the fair hearing of his matter within a reasonable time.
The pilot also contends that the Parliament is not endowed with sweeping powers to enact laws that adversely affect people’s right to access the court, especially in circumstances not recognized under the Constitution.
Cave also contends that Section 564 (1) (a) of the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2020 is inconsistent with the Constitution and unlawful in that it prevents the courts from hearing and determining a matter that involves the pilots, and which has been outstanding for more than five years.
Cave says the claimants are entitled to approach the High Court pursuant to Section 18 of the Constitution to obtain relief.
It was only last Monday that Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle criticized the Government for failing to make any provision in this year’s budget to pay the severed LIAT workers.