By Town Crier
Imagine waking up one day, after decades of diligently labouring for an employer, and this employer you trusted sends you home while withholding even the salary that you have already worked for. Imagine the pain of being forced to endure the current global pandemic without any financial help, all while having families to support, bills to pay; and this, in circumstances where that former employer has sent you home without a penny of due entitlements.
This is the dark reality for hundreds of former LIAT employees.
It all began on April 1, 2020, when over 90% of LIAT staff were temporarily laid-off without being given proper notice and pay. In October 2020, approximately 90% of the total staff was then made redundant, weeks after the controversial temporary layoff deadline had expired. This group included: pilots, flight attendants, engineers, ground-support personnel, and others. At the time that the layoffs and terminations were made effective, LIAT was majority owned by four CARICOM shareholder governments: St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Dominica. The company was publicly touted as an essential service, which was critical to regional connectivity.
The shocking and troubling reality now, is that these former employees have not received any monies legally due to them, inclusive of severance entitlements, despite numerous pleas to those who are responsible. This ongoing ordeal is nothing short of despicable! The deplorable handling of this matter is having a catastrophic impact on hundreds of families in the region. Even the innocent children in these households are victims of this injustice, and this is not the Caribbean way!
To add insult to injury, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda has enacted legislation after the fact, that will allow the insolvent LIAT to continue operating whilst completely immune to any form of court action. Subsequently, it was publicly admitted that LIAT is burning through approximately half a million dollars every month; this, while its oppressed former workers suffer. After years of sour industrial relations and disadvantaging its employees, LIAT continues to leverage itself on the backs of the people who kept it in the sky for 50 years. Critical funds that are rightfully-owed are being withheld from loyal people who had nothing to do with LIAT’s demise. Even the handful of employees who were fortunate enough to retain their employment, are reportedly being deprived of their salaries/wages. Is this fair?
The overall treatment meted out to these hardworking individuals by a CARICOM Institution such as LIAT, particularly the withholding of and failure to address something as important and fundamental as severance and other entitlements, is a regional travesty.
The former LIAT ex-staff needs your help to bring awareness to this ongoing and unjust situation. Please take a moment to forward this message to as many as you can.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].