Home > LIATís management responds to unions claims
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, November 08, 2011 – The management of LIAT has rejected a number of claims and allegations made by representatives of the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) and the National Workers Union of Saint Lucia during a recent interview on a radio station in Antigua.
Speaking on behalf of the company’s management, LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Brian Challenger expressed regret at the biased and one-sided nature of the programme which he said exposed listeners to “a diet of inaccuracies, falsehoods, and distortions disguised as gospel truths, with no opportunity for rebuttal, questioning or clarification”.
Mr. Challenger noted that LIAT is currently seeking to restructure the company with a view to ensuring its survival in the midst of a global economic crisis. This involves efforts to enhance its revenues, but also involves cutting costs and taking other action which would regrettably lead to reducing the present complement of staff.
“This was a painful process for management, staff and unions. LIAT has therefore sought to engage its unions in a dialogue about process and numbers and any contribution the unions might wish to make,” Mr. Challenger said.
He rejected union claims that LIAT’s management was responsible for a breakdown in discussions and noted that it was in fact the unions which had rejected the latest call to meet and discuss the affairs of the company.
“We had received confirmation from five of our 10 unions that they would be attending last week’s meeting, only to be told on the day before the meeting that they would no longer be attending. While we recognize the concerns of the unions that there would be further job cuts, the only way to move forward progressively is for the dialogue to start,” the LIAT CEO said.
“This should be, as the unions have always insisted, without any preconditions. This we have sought to do as best as possible within the constraints of our ongoing operations. We intend to continue our efforts to meet with our union partners in addressing the very real challenges that the company faces.”
The LIAT CEO queried the call from the union representatives for additional audits of the company. He noted that LIAT’s accounts were up to date and were audited by some of the leading international accounting firms. Additionally the company’s finances and financial procedures were subject to regular supervision and monitoring by senior financial managers from the company’s shareholder countries, who regularly provided guidance and instructions to the company in relation to its financial operations.
Mr. Challenger also rejected claims that the company’s management structure was bloated and that the process of job reductions unfairly targeted only low wage earners. He challenged the unions to compare LIAT’s operational structure with that of an airline of a similar nature before making such claims, noting that LIAT’s structure was largely conditioned by the multi-island nature of its operations and by regulatory requirements.
He noted that a report by one of the leading international aviation consulting firms, commissioned in 2009 by an outside agency, had identified LIAT’s staffing as being in the mid range for an airline of its type and had actually recommended the addition of new management level positions - an action which the airline had not taken.
In relation to staff cuts, the CEO noted that management as well as line staff had been a part of the company’s ongoing voluntary separation and reduction programmes and denied that there was any attempt to target any group of employees.
“The fact of the matter is that the company’s decisions are being made based on our strategic assessment of where the company has to go if it is to survive in the present very difficult economic environment,” he said.
He noted that aviation is by its very nature international in scope and that many of the measures that LIAT was now seeking to adopt were based on regional and international best practices and intended to enable the company to better adapt to the changing economic, commercial and technological environment. Such failure to adapt could result in the imminent ruin of the company.
Finally, the LIAT CEO expressed concern at the attempts by sections of the company’s unions to address their industrial concerns in the media. He noted that constant public maligning of LIAT’s management could not contribute to progressive labour relations, and was contrary to the calls for a spirit of partnership which had been made by some union members.
The CEO reiterated his hope for constructive dialogue with the unions, indicating that the present global and regional economic situation required reasoned understanding by all parties if the airline was to survive.
LIAT is one of the leading Caribbean airlines. It is owned by regional shareholders, with major shareholders being the Governments of Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. More information about LIAT may be found at www.liat.com .
| Desmond L. Brown | Corporate Communications Manager | LIAT (1974) LTD | Head Office, Coolidge Business Complex | Sir George Walter Highway | Antigua | Telephone: +1 268 480 6222 | fax: +1 268 480 5638 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org |