Ahead of next Tuesday’s shareholder governments’ meeting on LIAT, Harold Lovell says the entire issue needs a different approach from the one that has been taken since the airline’s former employees were sent home over two years ago.
Since then, the over 500 workers have been agitating for their severance and other gratuities, reportedly totaling nearly $80 million – but to no avail.
And now that the shareholders’ meeting is set to take place, reports are that the contentious issue of severance payments is not on the agenda.
Media reports claim the meeting will focus mostly on the future of the airline “and to agree on a renewed or rebooted regional carrier.”
However, Patterson Thompson – one of the most vocal advocates for the former workers of the beleaguered airline – is suggesting that severance should top the agenda of the shareholder governments.
Thompson, who served as head of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association (LIALPA), spoke on the matter to BARBADOS TODAY.
He said “he hopes the collective approach to the LIAT problems … would now first address the financial hardships of staff who have been on the breadline for the past two and a half years, having been severed without pay.”
Meanwhile, Lovell, the Political Leader of the United Progressive Party, says the brash behaviour of Prime Minister Gaston Browne has done nothing but add fuel to an already contentious issue.
He says a different approach is warranted at this time in order to bring some financial relief to the former workers – many of whom are struggling to support themselves and their families.
Lovell says the UPP has held discussions with an investor who is willing to take over the airline, paving the way for the workers to receive their severance.
The “my-way-or-the-highway” approach will not solve anything, he says, adding that the ex-employees should be respected for having given their all to the company.
Meanwhile, the UPP Political Leader says the vacuum that has been created in regional travel shows that LIAT is greatly needed to maintain connection and integration.
PM Browne recently doubled down on his position in Parliament, saying the former workers are unreasonable to demand 100 percent of their severance, since Antigua and Barbuda is one of the most vulnerable countries trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He declared that the Government has its workers to pay, and these former airline workers are not the only ones suffering.