The Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU) is calling on the Dominica government to follow the example set by St. Lucia which has entered into an agreement with non-management employees of the cash-strap regional airline, LIAT, who were terminated by the closure of the company in 2020 to settle long-standing termination payments to them.
“First and foremost that is a very powerful statement from the government of St. Lucia, one that I hope the shareholder governments can follow because they are not part of the shareholders, but yet they felt the compassion and the empathy of the workers to initiate that thing,” said WAWU President, Donald Rolle.
“I would really encourage the other shareholder governments ….that is one of the initiatives and discussion points that the unions were trying put at the table but for reason, it was not getting traction from the shareholders,” he added.
Last month, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre, delivering his first budget statement said the government is also “in discussions with the former management staff, including the pilots, to arrive at an acceptable settlement.
“Mr Speaker, our decision to settle these outstanding payments is yet another demonstration of our continued commitment to the upliftment of the welfare of the workers,” said Pierre.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said previously that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to St. John’s for one EC dollar.
Pierre did not say how much is owed to the non-management employees, but the regional trade unions, including the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) say they are united in seeking the millions of dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) owed to the workers.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Browne appealed to Caribbean trade unions to re-think their positions regarding the latest offer made to laid-off workers of the airline.
The Antigua and Barbuda government said it was providing two million dollars “to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate pay-out” to former local employees of the regional; airline, LIAT.
A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister said that the funds are being made available to the LIAT Court-appointed Receiver for distribution to resident former LIAT workers.
“This sum is intended to meet partial satisfaction of the cash component of the compassionate pay-out which the Antigua and Barbuda Government has volunteered. It extends this compassionate offer, though the Government has no legal obligation to make any such payments,” the statement said.
Rolle said it appears that there is a “difference of opinion” among the shareholders and “for reasons unknown they are just not speaking to us”.
Rolle also applauded the efforts by former LIAT workers to set up a petition urging the shareholder governments to deal with the situation.
More than 15,000 people have already signed the petition that has been launched with the goal being 25,000 signatures.
The petition was launched on April 30 by several former employees who say they are “disappointed and frustrated” by the way they have been treated over the last two years by the shareholder governments.
“At this point any approach that could help the cause of getting the former workers to get their severance pay I will endorse it. The efforts of the unions have gotten us that far, the more pressure that can be put on the shareholders, probably they will understand the plight of the workers and what we are trying to seek for the workers.
“What is troubling in all of this, the workers did nothing wrong…and to have them in a situation where they have to be actually begging for what is rightfully owed to them is very unfortunate,” Role said, adding “it does not speak well for the shareholders and their concerns for workers”.
SOURCE: ANTIGUA NEWSROOM