General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), David Massiah, says he is seeking a meeting with Cleveland Seaforth, the court-appointed administrator for the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT (1974) limited.
He said 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.
Massiah told the Observer Media group that the administrator has kept the employees and their bargaining agent in the dark on relevant issues regarding the airline and the company.
“What is very interesting, we have not heard from the administrator for quite a while,” Massiah said, noting that the union has not been given any updates regarding Seaforth’s stewardship.
“It has been literally, a total disrespect as far as we are concerned. So when this information would have hit the news media, I would have used the opportunity…to more or less write to Mr Seaforth to seek an audience and to remind him of the legal obligations that are there for all of the employees that need to be handled”
Massiah said that the administrator must explain to the union what the liquidation means to the former and present employees of the airline in addition to the way forward.
“So people could understand exactly what it is the liquidation would mean for us. What it is we are going to get from the liquidation. Nothing has been said and we have been asking for an update. There was some information that was provided but let us reflect on this administration process when it started in 2020, it was initially for four months.
“It has been extended over a period of time and we do not as bargaining agents on behalf of the workers had an opportunity to even go before the court to understand or know when he is making these presentations in the past…to understand exactly what is that he was doing and asking or where he has gone”.
The trade unionist said there is a need for “some clear understanding” amidst concerns that the workers are continuing to be disregarded.
“There seems to be this disengagement with the unions…we did not accede to what I considered what the Antigua government wanted when they delivered the funds to some of the employees last year and we did not think it was in the best interest of most of the people.
“Here it is everything has just gone quiet and as the court-appointed administrator I think the obligation and the onus is on him to also keep us abreast, but he has not been doing that. At this particular time we are trying to be more reasonable in the process by making sure that we are following and carrying out all the due processes that are necessary to get a reasonable and fair chance as to what will happen to the workers that we represent,” Massiah told Observer Media.
Last week, regional leaders met 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,” said the newly elected Grenada Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell.
LIAT 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.
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 Grenada Prime Minister told reporters that LIAT (1974) Limited “is bankrupt and that has been made clear and it is in receivership.
“Where we are now is finding appropriate air travel for the OECS in particular and whether it is LIAT, a new version of LIAT, or any other carrier we are really interested in finding appropriate air travel for the OECS.
“I can certainly say it will not be LIAT (1974) because obviously that entity is bankrupt and no one is reviving that entity. As you may be aware, I think there is LIAT (2020) which currently operates out of Antigua and has two planes in service,” Mitchell said.”