Senator David Massiah, general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), is commending the governments of St. Lucia and Barbados for paying severance to the former LIAT (1974) Ltd. workers, and he continues to make an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Gaston Browne for more dialogue.
Massiah says the Union, on behalf of the airline’s ex-employees, has been engaged in back-and-forth negotiations with the Government and its representatives, trying to reach an amicable settlement. But there has been no resolution.
He reports that every proposal the Union put forward has been blocked – on the ground that it does not comport with the Government’s “compassionate” offer of land, bonds, and a 50 percent severance payment.
However, the Union’s general secretary says, some of the workers are owed very small sums, and these could be liquidated if the 50 percent is honoured.
While the Union wants to achieve a meeting of the minds, Senator Massiah says, the Cabinet has refused, claiming that its offer is better than those put forward by the other shareholder governments.
Meanwhile, Massiah says that Prime Minister Browne continues to show aggression and disdain for the former LIAT workers, who are struggling up to this day.
According to the senator, the steps taken by the governments of Barbados and St. Lucia to pay former workers who reside in those countries should be commended and emulated.
Massiah accepts that the sole responsibility for paying the workers should not rest on the Government of Antigua and Barbuda; he believes the group of shareholders should have gotten together to decide on the best way forward.
However, he says, it was PM Browne who undertook to resuscitate the airline.
And while there has been talk about doing away with LIAT (1974) Ltd. and replacing it with “LIAT 2020,” Massiah says the airline continues to operate under its original name, since it is under administration.
In the meantime, Massiah is asking about a purported court document that has been sealed. He says the Union is curious to know its content and why it has not been privy to the information contained within.
Even as Prime Minister Browne is daring the Union to take the Government to court over the ex-employees’ severance payments, Massiah says this situation will not just go away. The issue is not about the court, he says, but about the process.
And, again, the Union official pleads with the Government to do right by the people of LIAT and the former employees, and to sit down with the Union to hammer out an amicable resolution to this long-outstanding matter.
Meanwhile, in a statement concerning the regional carrier and its former workers, the Government maintains that it has no legal obligation to settle any severance to the employees.
“In other words, the Government decided to use monies and other resources that should have been spent on the needs of the entire population, such as improvement of roads and water supply, to provide compassionate assistance to the former LIAT employees,” the statement reads.
It concludes: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, as an act of compassion and eminent reasonableness, continues to be committed to settling this matter directly with the existing and former employees of LIAT (1974) Ltd, in their interest.”