St Lucia government paying some former LIAT employees

CASTRIES – The St Lucia government says it has entered into an agreement with non-management employees of the cash-strap regional airline, LIAT, who were terminated by the closure of the company in 2020 to settle long-standing termination payments to them.

Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre, delivering his first budget statement since presenting the EC$1.84 billion (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) fiscal package to Parliament last month, said the government is also “in discussions with the former management staff, including the pilots, to arrive at an acceptable settlement.

“Mr Speaker, our decision to settle these outstanding payments is yet another demonstration of our continued commitment to the upliftment of the welfare of the workers,” said Pierre.

The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said previously that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to St John’s for one EC dollar.

Pierre did not say how much is owed to the non-management employees, but the regional trade unions, including the he Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) say they are united in seeking the millions of dollars owed to the workers.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Browne appealed to Caribbean trade unions to re-think their positions regarding the latest offer made to laid-off workers of the airline.

The Antigua and Barbuda government said it was providing two million dollars “to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate pay-out” to former local employees of the regional; airline, LIAT.

A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister said that the funds are being made available to the LIAT Court-appointed Receiver for distribution to resident former LIAT workers.

“This sum is intended to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate pay-out which the Antigua and Barbuda Government has volunteered. It extends this compassionate offer, though the Government has no legal obligation to make any such payments,” the statement said.

The government has said it will be unconscionable to use tax payers money to pay LIAT’s staff 100 per cent of the monies owed to them, even when the governments liability was no more than 34 per cent of the value of LIAT’s ownership.

“The offer of a compassionate payment is the result of a clear understanding that the share value is $0.00 and the government has no legal obligation to pay,” it added. (CMC)

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