Barbados to pay LIAT workers outstanding severance

By Rumi Samuel Published on March 17, 2023
Barbados to pay LIAT workers outstanding severance

The Barbados government says it will pay the three-year-old outstanding severance owed to former employees of LIAT(1974) Limited amounting to BDS$10 million (One BDS dollar=US$0.50 cents).

Prime Minister Mia Mottley told Parliament as she wrapped up the 2023 budget debate that her administration would fully compensate the 89 Barbadians impacted when the Antigua-based airline terminated hundreds of its employees from across the region in 2020 without paying severance.

“We want, therefore, to announce tonight that the government of Barbados will take responsibility for all of the Barbadian workers and that the government of Barbados will pay up to BDS$75,000 in cash to every person in terms of their calculated severance liability and that any number for severance over BDS$75,000 will be paid in bonds.”

The former LIAT workers, including pilots, have been demanding the millions of dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) owed in severance and other benefits.

In January, the St. Lucia government made good on its promise to pay compensation to former employees of the cash-strapped regional airline, with Labour Minister Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte advising them to use the benefits wisely.

The former local LIAT employees in Castries received bond certificates from the government, which are cash redeemable and can also be used as collateral to secure loans

In 2021, the Antigua and Barbuda government offered two million EC dollars to partially satisfy the cash component of the compassionate payout to former LIAT workers here.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, speaking in Parliament, informed the union that his administration was no longer prepared to meet bilaterally to discuss the issue and that efforts should be made to include the other shareholder governments of the airline.

The significant shareholders of the Antigua-based airline, which entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

LIAT, before entering into administration, had been servicing several regional destinations and has since scaled down its operations and is now servicing Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, San Juan Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Maarten.

Prime Minister Mottley said that her administration could not afford to pay the Barbadians their severance earlier due to insufficient funds.

She said that when she met with the workers’ representatives two years ago, she informed them that the government could not handle the severe.

“I said to them at that time; I could not deal with the issue of your severance. We were in all kinds of discussions, but above all else, we did not have the fiscal capacity to do it then, especially during a pandemic.”

Mottley recalled that in May 2021, as a compassionate gesture, the government agreed to give the Barbadians who did not receive severance BDS$2,000 as a one-off cash gift and a BDS$2,000 per month advance for one year, which was to be repaid at a future date from any severance payment settlement.

Mottley then announced details of the severance, with payment arrangements to be completed by the Director of Finance (Ian Carrington) when he returns to the island next week.

“My office has been doing work and has done a detailed sheet that now puts me in a position, I believe, to put aspects of this to rest. “So that the persons at LIAT who have had to endure grave hardships, and anxiety, we understand.

“And believe me, if I could have done it earlier, I would have done it earlier. But I believe that the opportunity that was presented to us between these two programmes and what we have concerning the outlay has allowed us to make some decisions that are in favour of the people of Barbados.”

Mottley said the BDS$75,000 in cash would cost the government just over four million dollars while the bond price tag has been put at a little under six million dollars.

“The government of Barbados, therefore, will make the appropriate arrangements. I have instructed the Director of Finance and Economic Affairs, who is on duty leave at the Inter-American Development Bank meetings, that as soon as he returns next week, he is to meet with the representatives of the LIAT employees and put in place the payments for the $75,000 in cash for everyone…,” Mottley told the House of Assembly.

The announcement by the government has found favour with former workers with Neil Cave, the ex-LIAT senior pilot who had been spearheading the efforts to get the local LIAT workers paid, telling the online publication Barbados TODAY that his telephone has been inundated with calls from colleagues, some in tears and others expressing disbelief at the news.

“The right thing has been done, and our suffering is over, and I can’t express that in words. Our suffering is over. My wife is a former worker…and when I called to give her the news, she broke down in tears. I have had similar calls from people who broke out in tears…They can’t believe it,” Cave reported.

He said that while workers had been waiting to get their entitlements, some had lost homes, vehicles and credit cards.

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which had been representing the interests of the Barbadian pilots in the severance issue, welcomed the news of the promised payout.

General Secretary Richard Greene said it was long in coming after several employees incurred debts they had to repay and lost their homes and vehicles.

“Some would have had to liquidate assets; some would have depleted all their savings to survive,” Greene said.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

0 Comment

No comment found. Be the first one to add comment on this article.

Leave a Comment