ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Job cuts proposed last year by LIAT management is still being considered, Antiguan trade unionist Senator David Massiah said following a key meeting in Barbados yesterday to discuss the way forward for the Antigua-based airline.
But he stressed unions would be seeking the best way forward for workers, and are demanding proper dialogue before any redundancy occurs.
“We still have our concerns … about the manager,” said Massiah, general secretary of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU).
“Is it only going to be job cuts down at the bottom or job cuts that are basically going to be going across wholesale the entire organisation?”
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves who heads the group of LIAT major shareholder governments insisted that changes must be made at the airline, which last year lost in the region of EC $46 million, EC $26 less than what it haemorrhaged in 2010.
“The board would work with the working group to devise the terms of reference for the consultancy with respect of the institution and modalities for LIAT going forward,” he told journalists following the meeting.
“There’s a commitment on the part of everyone, the shareholders, the board, management, the unions, to work to keep LIAT in the skies and to make reform and to make it a better airline.”
Dr Gonsalves, Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and Freundel Stuart, Barbados’ leader held separate discussions with unions led by Senator Massiah, and the LIAT board and management team.
“We adopted from the board a bundle of proposals relating to the recovery plan in the short term which would stem some of the cash flow problems,” Dr Golsalves disclosed.
“We addressed a number of routes which would have to be reassessed. This is a continuation of work which has been ongoing,” he added.
A series of decisions, he said, were made including on the contentious matter of the LIAT Pension Fund with CLICO that would now provide a “sufficiency of comfort to those who are in that plan.”
The leaders also agreed that Dr Gonsalves, who has responsibility for air transportation within the Caricom quasi-cabinet, would push for a meeting of relevant Caricom ministers to discuss a regional air transport policy.
The prime ministers were presented with a report from a technical committee addressing the issue of fleet expansion, including an outline of the capital needed to proceed.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)