EDITOR: We are entering the third anniversary of the collapse of Liat 1974 ltd, and to date, the progress or lack thereof, is insignificant as the workers have not been compensated or remunerated.
Firstly, it’s important to note that prior to the collapse of the airline the unions in the region were engaged in periodical meetings with management and the shareholding prime ministers or their representatives. We wholeheartedly stood with the management and leaders to support this airline – critical to regional travel and our Caribbean citizens, during its most challenging times.
The workers continue to be dismayed by the lack of care or concern demonstrated by the Prime Minister during the tumultuous sequence of local, regional and, global economic crises. This third anniversary of the collapse, without being able to secure an audience, or an official response, concerning the severance issue is unconscionable. To simply ignore and not engage the very workers whose incomes subsidized the airline by delayed salaries, salary cuts and salary freezes, is totally unacceptable.
We are quite aware that COVID-19 brought about a tremendous amount of challenges to all Governments, and at no time did we expect an immediate solution. It was only reasonable to allow the Government to assess their fiscal position and to readjust where necessary; but after three years, a severance payment of approximately 1.1 million EC dollars for 43 workers is unreasonable.
We applaud the St Lucia Government and most recently the Barbados government for their understanding and support of the workers with the offer of cash and bonds. Since 2020, all other Governments communicated with their workers after the dissolution of the airline, even though they were unable at the time to provide any financial solution. This is very commendable, and it begs the question as to why the Liat St Vincent workers have not been able to secure a meeting with our Prime minister – the chairman of the shareholder Governments.
The parliamentary message by the Barbadian Prime Minister demonstrates the respect for the workers and general public that has not been evident in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The workers’ dignity and rights are not seasonal or passing, but rather an eternal, unshakeable, indisputable, human tenet which should be the pillar of our basic existence. These ten words by the Barbados Prime Minister spoke volumes, and transcended the fiduciary issue. Whilst softening the fallout, her intervention planted the seeds towards healing this issue.
“Sir, this Government sees people, hears people and feels people.”
This statement perfectly encapsulates Liat’s service to the people of the Caribbean over the years. From the students going off to university needing break with overweight with their books and personal items, to the executives and Government officials being afforded express check-in to accommodate their busy schedules, we, the workers, heard, saw and understood our passengers. To the sick person having to [be] rushed overseas for medical attention or someone having to get back home because of a family emergency, we heard, we saw and we felt you. In so many ways we went above and beyond to keep the region moving, all the whilst contributing to the richness and advancement of Caribbean citizens and culture.
We thank all those who have shown support and we hope that this Liat issue will be settled before another anniversary comes around. At the expense of our workers, this issue may prove to be the catalyst for change as to how Governments engage labour issues across the region.
St Vincent Liat Workers Union