ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Come Monday, pilots at regional carrier LIAT will know if the company has accepted “proposals aimed at restoring industrial stability” and brokered under the chair of Antigua & Barbuda’s Labour Minister Dr Errol Cort.
Chairman of the Council of LIAT Trade Unions Senator Chester Humphrey told The Daily OBSERVER that talks begun on Thursday to reach “a comprehensive resolution” will continue.
He said “there was some limited service today (yesterday) but the industrial action continues.”
However, LIAT has painted a different picture saying Friday that its flights operations had returned to normal and the backlog in passengers would have been cleared yesterday.
The apparent “full resumption of duty” by pilots came despite Dr Cort telling this newspaper at the conclusion of the first round of talks that “no undertaking was given to discontinue the action” when he urged “serious consideration to normalising operations.”
Beginning last Tuesday, travel plans of hundreds of travellers were thrown into chaos as cockpit crew staged a sickout to press for the reinstatement of Chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Captain Michael Blackburn.
Senator Humphrey told this newspaper he is confident, on two grounds, that the senior pilot will be reinstated.
“I do not believe that dismissal is sustainable in any court of law or any tribunal. And number two if the shareholders have any regards for the interest of the company and passengers, then the proposals which have been put on the table, which are now receiving their consideration, should be acted upon,” he advised.
Meantime, Cort said he remains “optimistic that we will be able to find an amicable resolution.”
He described the four-and-a-half hour meeting as “respectful, cordial and useful.”
Cort said LIALPA was well represented by executive members of the association and Antigua & Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) officials as well as Blackburn and Humphrey who both linked up via telephone.
LIAT’s team, headed by CEO Brian Challenger, was joined by members of the Antigua & Barbuda Employers’ Federation.
The labour minister, who is an attorney-at-law, declined to express his legal opinion on the firing of the senior pilot saying he “did not want to prejudice the discussions.”
When contacted, LIAT’s Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Browne said he was not privy to what transpired in the talks, but confirmed that the company will be at Monday’s meeting.
The three days of industrial action has cost the company more than EC $2 million according to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)