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Home > Statement from LIAT regarding industrial action by LIALPA

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, December 07, 2011 – On Tuesday 6th December and Wednesday 7th December, members of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) called in sick throughout the LIAT network, effectively shutting down the company’s flight operations and stranding thousands of passengers throughout the region. On both days only one flight was able to operate moving from Antigua and Trinidad respectively.
This action was a response by LIALPA to the summary dismissal by LIAT of Captain Michael Blackburn, a senior pilot within the company. This action by the company, taken after long and careful consideration, reflects the advice received from various legal sources that Captain Blackburn’s behavior, and in particular his recent statements on the radio, had effectively destroyed the requirement for professional respect expected between an employer and its employees. In this case, summary dismissal as contemplated under the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code was recommended as the appropriate course of action.
In particular it is felt that Captain Blackburn’s statements with regard to the safety standards of the airline and the capability of its management were a deliberate attempt to bring the company into public disrepute. These statements, including those relating to safety have received widespread publicity throughout the region, and indeed the world, painting an unfair and distorted picture of LIAT’s operations and bringing the safety and reliability of the airline into question.
These actions can only hurt LIAT. In that regard the action by the pilots, while we may understand the emotions involved, are at best misguided and at worst selfish.  We are all aware of the economic crisis which the world faces. LIAT’s own situation is particularly grave given the intense competition that it now faces and the overall economic situation in the region. All around us companies in the region and throughout the world are undergoing staff reduction and other austerity measures forced upon them by the current economic downturn. During this time actions which needlessly alienate our customers and rack up huge cost cannot be condoned.
We therefore urge LIALPA to seek appropriate remedies for its grievance under the established procedures of the Labour Code and other legislation. Sick-outs and other forms of industrial action will not achieve the desired ends and will cost the company millions of dollars which it cannot afford at this, or any other, time.
In particular the company wishes to place on record that the recent action in relation to Captain Blackburn does not represent any attempt by the company to interfere with the collective bargaining process. The company will continue to attempt to engage with its 10 union representative bodies in a manner which allows for respectful dialogue and exchange aimed at promoting the advancement of the company and its employees.
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
| 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: |

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