ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, November 24, 2009 – LIAT‟S Management has noted with disappointment recent media pronouncements by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Chairman, Captain Michael Blackburn, pointing to the possibility of industrial action by LIAT‟s pilots, “should no bargaining agreement be reached by December 1st” with LIAT (1974) Ltd.
In July 2009, at a meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, chaired by Dr. The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and The Grenadines, and attended by the Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, the issues relating to the ongoing dispute between LIAT and LIALPA were discussed and agreement reached between the parties on a course of action for resolving these concerns.
One of the key areas of agreement in this regard related to the establishment of an Arbitration process to be set up under the Arbitration Act of Antigua and Barbuda. This Arbitration panel has now been set up and has agreed on certain critical aspects of its work including its schedule of work. Any delays which may have occurred in setting up the arbitration process can in no way be attributed to any action or lack of action by LIAT‟s management.
The Arbitration process has already begun and the parties involved have agreed on a list of matters for arbitration based on submissions from LIALPA‟s executive and LIAT‟s management. Concurrent to this process are a number of matters which by joint agreement of LIALPA and LIAT remain before the Antigua and Barbuda Industrial Court for decision. These pertain to matters relating to the application of certain provisions of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code.
It should be recognized that the Arbitration and Industrial Court processes are independent legal processes with which LIAT‟s management are bound to follow and comply.
LIAT‟s management wishes to emphasize that no attempt has been made to derail or slow down the process of arbitration agreed upon with LIALPA. On the explicit instructions of its three Shareholder Prime Ministers, and Board of Directors, LIAT‟s management has in fact taken extra efforts to facilitate the arbitration process now underway.
Against this background, LIAT‟s management is particularly disappointed to read of threats of possible industrial action by LIALPA. Throughout 2009, the company has negotiated with and reached agreement with almost all of its nine (9) labour unions as to their terms and conditions of work. A similar commitment exists on the company‟s part to arriving at a settlement with LIALPA that reflects the reality of the
airline‟s financial situation and prospects, while seeking to meet the aspirations of its employees for their terms and conditions of work.
As noted today by a prominent regional trade unionist familiar with the LIAT-LIAPA situation,, the current economic and financial situation facing public and private sectors throughout the Caribbean is increasingly precarious. Against this background, threats to close down LIAT‟s regional operations, at a time when mutually agreed upon procedures are being implemented, can only do even further harm to a regional economy and an airline already confronted by the challenges arising from harsh international and regional economic conditions.
LIAT‟s management hopes that LIALPA‟s membership will act responsibly in understanding and respecting the nature and extent of the arbitration process already, and continue to recognize the critical role that LIAT plays in the regional economy and society. Possibilities of industrial action as we move closer to the Christmas and Winter Travel seasons are particularly ominous given the negative impact which this will have on the lives of passengers, hotel workers, taxi drivers, and others who are dependent on LIAT„s services.
LIAT‟s management uses this opportunity to reiterate its full commitment to the agreed upon Arbitration and Industrial Court processes now under way to resolve the ongoing LIAT/LIALPA dispute and calls on LIALPA to act professionally and responsibly while these agreed upon processes are underway.
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 .
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: email@example.com.