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ANTIGUA & BARBUDA | PM Gaston Browne moves to save LIAT, Seeks Concession from Workers

Featured Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
ST JOHN’S – Antigua, July 8, 2020- Despite an insistence by incoming Chair of CARICOM and the Prime Minister responsible for Transportation Dr, Ralph Gonsalves that Regional airline LIAT will be liquidated by its shareholder governments, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne is desperately trying to save the airline.

Browne who has pledged EC$20 million towards the capitalisation of the new airline, is opposed to liquidating LIAT which employs hundreds of workers on the island.  It’s liquidation would inflict a major blow to the Antigua and Barbuda economy.

liat employees 460On Tuesday, Browne held crucial talks with representatives of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), which included the union’s general secretary, David Massiah.

He was canvassing support for the formation of a new company, LIAT 2020, should the governments of Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenada go ahead with their plans to liquidate LIAT (1974) Limited that owes millions of dollars to its creditors.

Its understood that  LIAT's Antigua-based workers have until Friday to agree to proposals by the government as it moves to prevent the liquidation of the company by its major shareholder governments.

Massiah disclosed that the ABWU would be involving all stakeholders in their consultation process before any firm decision can be made on the options outlined by Prime Minister Browne during the meeting.

But Prime Minister Browne, while he has not publicly indicated what had been discussed on Tuesday, posted on his Facebook page, an Antigua Newsroom report which quoted his Chief of Staff, Max Hurst, as saying that LIAT workers have been asked to agree to a 50 per cent cut in severance payments.

According to the report, Hurst said while a 30 per cent cut was proposed, Prime Minister Browne indicated that this may not be sufficient and that the government is proposing in a 50 per cent cut.

Hurst said that if the union agrees to this proposal, staff will also benefit from shares in LIAT and that any proposal would need to be taken to the shareholder governments as an alternative to liquidating the airline.

The report noted that suggestions for duty waivers, entrepreneurship funding, land leasing for agricultural purposes among others have also been placed on the table and that Browne also discussed his plans for the regional carrier.

Browne is hoping to have a final meeting on Monday with Prime Ministers Mia Mottley of Barbados and Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, to discuss his proposals for reorganising LIAT.

mia mottley 2 460On Friday, prime minister  Mia Amor Mottley announced that the shareholder governments are forging ahead with the decision to liquidate the cash-strapped LIAT while welcoming six private airlines to take its place.

Mottley, who was passing the CARICOM chairmanship to St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said six airlines had confirmed services to the southern Caribbean, to begin in a matter of weeks.

She expressed confidence that  the airlines out of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique and the United States would maintain connectivity especially for the subregion. The carriers named are SVG Air, One Caribbean, Caribbean Airlines, Inter Caribbean, Silver Airlines and Air Antilles.

“I can report with certainty that since announcements were being made earlier this week about LIAT’s demise, six airlines have come forward offering to fill the space . . . We are satisfied that these six airlines can more than fill the immediate gap, particularly given the reduced traffic within the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mottley said.

  • Countries: Antigua_Barbuda