Union says it will continue seeking meeting on LIAT

St John’s – General Secretary of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), David Massiah says he will continue seeking a meeting with Cleveland Seaforth, the court-appointed administrator for the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT (1974) Limited.

The trade unionist said earlier this month that among the issues to be discussed will be the decision by the shareholder governments to liquidate the company that owes millions of dollars to former employees who were dismissed last year.

But in a letter to Massiah, dated August 11, Seaforth said: “…discussions held by (Caricom) heads of government are separate and apart from the court-appointed administration process, hence the administrator may not be fully aware of all the matters discussed at such meetings.”

In addition, Seaforth said that the “matter of the liquidation of LIAT (1974) Limited is one that must be addressed by the Courts of Antigua & Barbuda and not a liquidator, subsequently appointed”.

He said once he “has been fully informed” on the issue, a date and time for a meeting with the union will be communicated.

But Massiah told the Observer Media group that the administrator was being evasive and his response is indicating that it’s a matter for the governments to announce or to say exactly what is the situation.

“The sort of evasive way that has been demonstrated there and the sort of scant regard to ensuring that the people are fully aware … to the full gamut of what is happening with LIAT (1974) Limited and why is it they are not getting their money, people need to know,” he said.

Massiah said while the union is not seeking any confrontation with the court-appointed liquidator, it will continue to press for a meeting.

“I thought he would have used the opportunity to at least reach out and have an olive branch for us to have a discussion…,” he said, adding “…although his letter has given an indication once they receive certain information or conditions a proposed date” will be given for the requested meeting.

“This is something that is of urgency. The governments made the pronouncement, obviously this thing is looking to happen within a matter of weeks…so at this particular time, you cannot put no proposed meeting ad infinitum.

“There should be some form of timeline of urgency,” he added.

Caricom leaders met earlier this month to discuss the situation regarding air transportation in the Caribbean amidst concerns that both regional and international travellers are finding it very expensive and difficult to commute.

“It was agreed that we would retain a consultant to provide advice to the heads of the region as to how we can address the critical need to have, particularly air transportation resumed at a level that existed prior to COVID-19,” the newly elected Grenada Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell said.

LIAT is owned by the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG).

Antigua & Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne said previously that a decision had been taken that Barbados and SVG may turn over their shares in LIAT to St John’s for one EC dollar (U.S. $0.37).

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


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