ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Agitated LIAT pilots are applying a new strategy to their on-going dispute with management with the hope of resolving “a very unsettled state of affairs.”
Pressed on whether industrial action is in the cards, the union’s attorney did not rule it out.
“The day will come when it’s the right time for it to come because we want to exhaust all discussions with management peacefully.
“We want management, every single member of management to understand the union’s position on the issues. We want every single shareholder to understand the pilot union’s position on the issues. We want the directors, who are appointed largely by politicians to understand the issues and what is at stake,” Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) attorney Anthony Astaphan, QC told reporters.
The pilots hope that their approach, guided by their legal team, would help them arrive at a consensus with management noting that industrial action would be a last resort.
LIALPA and its legal team outlined a plan of action that includes discussions with shareholder governments – Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent & the Grenadines. Letters to the respective prime ministers will be dispatched by the end of the week and a meeting is expected to be scheduled at the earliest possible date.
“We want the public to know precisely where LIAT has reached with the pilots’ union and to understand historically how long some of these things have been festering, the sort of responses we’re getting from management and that how many of these, as you call them, underlying issues remain a burden forever. There has to come a time when this has to end and we’re really hoping. We’re praying that we can resolve this with common sense and with patience by going through the process,” Astaphan said.
The union’s executive said it is adopting the more restrained approach even as LIALPA membership recently voted for its Chairman Michael Blackburn to take a more drastic approach to resolving long-standing issues with LIAT management.
“The union has given Captain Blackburn, overwhelming support and authorising industrial action to enforce certain parts of our contract,” LIALPA secretary Captain Patterson Thompson said.
“The pilots bleed too. We are normal human beings. We have our own financial issues, we have our own problems and if you think we are going to sit down and take this bad treatment day after day has to come to an end. We are reasonable people, we’re willing to sit down and meet with LIAT management,” Thompson added.
The pilots have a long list of grievances with the airline’s management, but the most contentious one concerns the status of the Provident Fund and monies paid into it. They have also listed cockpit temperatures and grievance procedures as some of the issues of major concern.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)