LIAT shareholder government condemns action by pilots

LIAT’s second largest shareholder, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, today condemned the strike action of the pilots in their dispute over money, and the time-frame in which their earnings are to be paid.

The industrial action taken by the pilots is in its second day, as members of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) continue to refuse to fly any of the airline’s ATR 72 series aircraft.

The Antigua and Barbuda Government said the pilots have been offered a reasonable payment schedule that takes into account the cash-flow position of the airline.

“Instead of exercising restraint and responsibility, the pilots have rejected the offer in an attempt to squeeze the cash-strapped airline to pay them immediately,” a Government-issued statement said.

“Everyone connected to LIAT is aware that the cash-strapped carrier is very much dependent upon the treasuries of the four owner-countries in order to survive. These four states are incapable of making large payments to LIAT at this time, given the fiscal challenges which they face.”

The pilots took action after LIAT management failed to honour a salary package arrangement agreed upon in January 2017, despite the threat of the strike if the airline did not hold up its end of the deal by June 1.

On Wednesday LIAT apologised to customers for any inconvenience the disruption to the airline’s service may have caused, adding that they remain committed to working with LIALPA to resolve any issues.

They met with representatives from the pilots’ association Wednesday at LIAT’s headquarters in Antigua.

“During the meeting, a proposal was tabled by the management that would see the pilots receiving salary increases with respect to the ATR 72 coming into effect from July 19, 2017. The payment of the retroactive ATR pay adjustment for July 2013 to 2017 would be paid in three instalments commencing the pilots’ pay period in December 2017,” LIAT said after the meeting.

The pilots’ association rejected the proposal.

The Antigua and Barbuda Government said it is unreasonable for the pilots to expect the governments to subsidise the excesses of their unreasonable strike action.

“Since neither LIAT nor its owner-governments possess sufficient financial resources to honour the demands for increases, then restraint must be exercised by the pilots; failing the exercise of reasonable restraint, the pilots will destroy the airline and their own employment options,” the statement said.

“Such an outcome would serve only to harm the Caribbean people, and to undermine the probabilities of attracting more governments to share the burdens of providing for our own air links. LIAT is an expression of our Caribbean sovereignty and independence. Its destruction, fueled by unreasonable demands, can benefit no-one.

“The Government of Antigua and Barbuda calls upon the pilots of LIAT to return to work and to continue the negotiations leading to their payment in full of the amounts agreed to, in a mutually satisfying period.”