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Home > LIAT shareholders discuss the airline’s future at St. Vincent meeting

ST. JOHNS, Antigua, July 20, 2009 – LIAT’s three main shareholder Prime Ministers - David Thompson of Barbados, Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines - met in St. Vincent on Monday with members of LIAT’s Board of Directors and Management where they made significant progress on the way forward for the regional carrier.

They agreed to meet with the unions representing LIAT employees on Monday July 27 to discuss moving the business forward in the current crisis.

Chairman, Dr. Jean Holder presented the shareholders with a strategic overview of the carrier while the Acting Chief Executive Officer Brian Challenger presented a detailed report on operational matters including the current crisis caused largely by the apparent work to rule by the pilots, LIAT’s financial status, the status of negotiations with the various other unions and staff associations; and a plan of action to manage the current crisis and move the Company forward.

Several decisions were taken at the three-hour long meeting including an agreement that the shareholder primes ministers would meet on a quarterly basis.

“From a governance standpoint it was agreed that the shareholder Prime Ministers would meet every quarter with the next such meeting set for 12th October 2009 in St. Vincent,” host Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves said.

“There are some very important issues as we go forward with LIAT and the shareholders have decided, at the invitation of the Board, to stay on top of things.”

The Prime Ministers also gave instructions for the leadership of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) and other unions to attend a meeting in St. Vincent on Monday July 27.

“As everyone in the region is aware, the pilots association has been taking industrial action in one form or another over the last several weeks,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

“There is an injunction in the Industrial Court in Antigua and Barbuda but that does not mean that we still do not have instances of industrial action taking place…which has been responsible for some disruptions we’ve been having.

“There is a legal process which is on-going and the shareholders do not want to interfere in that legal process…but clearly we can’t stand by and watch an industrial relations situation get completely out of hand and jeopardize what is in fact a crucial service. We can’t have a Caribbean Community without communications and air transportation is one of the most vital forms of communication,” Dr. Gonsalves added.

On the matter of fleet renewal, the Prime Minister said that by October, a document which the shareholders have commissioned from LIAT’s Management would be ready and they would then be in a position to make some clear decisions on the fleet expansion and the forms for financing for the various levels of fleet expansion.

“LIAT has a number of planes, some of them ageing, though quite functional and quite safe and they have received, yet again, top marks for safety, not only from the suppliers of the planes but also from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority, but we have to look at certain interim measures of fleet renewal and we have to look at the further expansion of LIAT itself,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

The shareholders have also taken certain decisions regarding strengthening cooperation with other regional airlines, especially Caribbean Airlines out of Trinidad and Tobago. However, Prime Minister Gonsalves said that some of the issues to be discussed would have to be dealt with at the political level.

The Shareholders have also endorsed a plan by LIAT’s Board of Directors to establish a cargo service later this year.

On the issue of safety Prime Minister Gonsalves indicated that the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority has written to him indicating that the allegations made by the Union about the airline’s safety is “… at variance with the truth”

-ENDS-

About LIAT
LIAT is one of the leading Caribbean airlines. It is owned by regional shareholders, with the major shareholders being the Governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  More information about LIAT may be found at www.liat.com.

Media contact:
Desmond Brown, Corporate Communications Manager, LIAT (1974) Limited, Head Office, Sealey Building, Sir George Walter Highway, Antigua. Telephone: +268 480 5600 EXT 6222, fax: +268 480 5638 and email: brownd@liatairline.com.


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