LIAT strike threat off

Passengers who feared cancelled flights and missed connections tomorrow due to industrial action by LIAT pilots no longer have to worry.

The airline’s management has assured that there will be no disruption to services across the region.

“The recent report of impending action by the pilots have been withdrawn following a meeting between management and the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association,” LIAT said in a brief statement.

The Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) had threatened to stage sit-ins and picketing at various airports if its members did not receive their salaries by midnight tonight.

The two sides had a stormy relations and the late payment of salaries did not help the cause.

Industrial action was averted at the 11th hour last month, when a truce was reached at a meeting with the shareholder governments.

Chairman of the shareholder governments, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines had emerged from that meeting held here to announce that the sore point had been resolved.

“I think that instructions have gone to the bank for the payments, so depends on which bank you are in, some persons would get paid tomorrow or the next day,” he told the waiting media at the time.

However, it was clear that trouble was not far away as the Vincentian leader suggested that there was no guarantee that the airline would not be late with salaries again in the immediate future.

“The management is not saying that they would be in a position on each occasion over the next three months to pay precisely on time; there may be a couple of days deferral,” Gonsalves said then.

Details of today’s talks, chaired by Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney general Steadroy Benjamin, were not released, with the airline saying little more than it was “cordial”.

“The discussions were cordial and the management and pilots have reached a mutually amicable decision on outstanding issues,” the statement said.

Efforts to reach LIALPA officials for comment were unsuccessful.

5 Responses to LIAT strike threat off

  1. BimJim May 25, 2017 at 8:49 am

    “Industrial action was averted at the 11th hour last month, when a truce was reached at a meeting with the shareholder governments.”

    So there’s Ralphie cleaning up his own mess again, for the second time in just a month. As shareholder Chairman he’s doing a “bang-up” job keeping the airline on the brink and extracting the maximum possible “donations” out of the shareholder taxpayers.

    Keep up the mediocre work, Comrade! SVG Air and Argyle will rule the Caribbean skies before long!

  2. BimJim May 25, 2017 at 9:26 am

    If you jump to blame LIALPA – again – then it is clear that you have absolutely no idea what the true situation is. Historically, this is not the first time an abysmal LIAT management have brought LIAT to the brink of industrial action – by any group of employees, not just the pilots – and it would not have been the first time the pilots would have shut down the airline because of bad faith and sheer lying and nastiness from management.

    How about 10 years negotiating a single contract and still getting nowhere? How about that happening THREE times? This alone is some $30 million in wasted salaries and countless man-hours in wasted time down the drain, in case you were unable to put numbers to it.

    LIAT management wanted to access THE EMPLOYEES’ MONEY in their Provident Fund – LIAT had no pensions – and when that was refused by the courts they simply stopped putting in – held back – BOTH the company AND the employee contributions for years after that. In short, they committed fraud AND theft to the tune of over US$10 million – directly in the face of the court order – and nobody even got a summons.

    If someone signs a substantial revenue contract with you and then refuses to deliver, what would YOU do? If someone steals a substantial amout of YOUR money, what would YOU do? LIAT management has done this and still does this – with ALL employees – over and over again.

    WHY does LIAT cost the taxpayers so much? NOT because the employees stand on their rights, but because the shareholders insist on appointing their friends and relatives to the Board and executive management – not ONE of whom are competent in the airline business.

    The last CEO was already retired – brought in from the bowels of British Airways Cargo with NO expertise in running a small fast-moving airline – he was a do-nothing back-room executive – and clearly got the job because he agreed to make no changes. He spent his tenure touring the LIAT network (at LIAT expense,of course), doing as little as possible with a CEO salary. Now THAT’s what I call a nice semi-retirement!

    Now the CFO – Reifer-Jones – thinks she is qualified and wants the CEO position, but the ONLY airline business she knows is watching how LIAT was run before – and we all know how that is going.

    Without qualifications and experience you cannot possibly innovate. And Reifer-Jones is an accountant, not an aviation person.

    LIAT requires a qualified hand at the helm with decades of small airline experience, someone who REALLY knows how a small airline is suppoosed to operate. Not someone who is “trying a ting” or “seeing what they could do”.

    And on the flip side of that coin that person needs a free hand from the shareholders to make changes – no executive can perform miracles with both hands and both feet chained to the ground. By all means set broad parameters – such as “break even or make a profit” or “serve all of the existing destinations”, but once the person is appointed get the hell out of the way, pull out the political commissars, and stop the daily instructions.

    A year ago I gave LIAT about two years to survive unless changes were made. Here we are a year and two months after the last CEO walked out, and still no replacement. The CFO who is running the airline is not qualified or experienced to do so, and there is a good chance she will be appointed.

    Stop criticising the LIAT employees for doing what they must do to protect themselves. All of the shareholder governments are social – labour – governments, originally formed to protect LABOUR – the average worker – from the abuses of employers.

    And in this case the enemy is not the employee, it is the employer. And in LIAT’s case that simple fact has been proven over and over again for many decades, there can be no argument about this truth.

  3. F.A.Rudder May 25, 2017 at 10:56 am

    On the general principal of the flying public safety and employees rights the lateness of salaries is a problem which needs to be resolved in a timely manner with due respects to the monthly and daily debts occurred by these workers personal hygiene expenses, mortgages,rent and domestic purchases for the upkeep of good moral practices and character

  4. Helicopter(8P) May 25, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Mr Bim Jim can you please explain what is the performance characteristics of a small air-line (Regional) in comparison to an international air-line. May I ask ! Is there a difference in the practices of air-line management operations as a discipline? Isn’t micro and macro formulations the same only difference is the decimal point?

  5. BimJim May 26, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Helicopter(8P), I will address the hardware side first. Jet engines are most efficient (or economical) when they are at high altitudes. For every engine type there is an optimum altitude, but for these purposes let us just say those altitudes are above 30,000 feet.

    International airlines coming to the eastern Caribbean have – at the very least – three hours in the air to get their jets up to efficient altitude for the jet engines. Most airlines serving the eastern Caribbean run four to five hour sectors, from Europe as many as nine hours. Since the operational (cost) condition is economic this means they can focus on filling their seats and making the revenue (income) side economic.

    Turboprops are just jet engines driving a propeller, and are less efficient than jet engines, but using a propeller allows the aircraft to be landed and taken off in much less distance – because there is more efficiency in “ground effect” with a propeller blowing air over the wings than with just a channeled blast of air pushing the machine forward.

    Turboprops are most efficient above 20,000 feet and there is a factor of propeller inefficiency in thin air (high altitudes) which stops them from flying up at the jet altitudes. So an island hopper airline using turboprops will always be expensive to operate – jets much more expensive. Piston engine aircraft are more efficient – and therefore economic – at low altitudes, but they are noisy and vibrate, and few people want to travel in them any more after experiencing the smooth flight and power of jets and turboprops.

    To your question: Small regional airlines are like beehives – fast turnover of flights going and coming every which way, buzzing with activity, with ever-changing conditions and constant demands. Large international airlies are more like train stations, they may have faster and heavier aircraft, but the internal workings are slower, more regal, with far more at stake every flight than a 20-minute sector.

    If internationals have a breakdown it may be on the other side of the world, not two islands over, and the so difficulties are multiplied by the thousands. Regional airlines work with US$10- or US$20 million dollar aircraft (far less, if they buy used airplanes), and large international airlines necessarily pay as much as US$100 million for one airplane – and buy them new.

    LIAT per se is not unique, but their “owners” approach to this highly technical business is remarkably unique… for as many as 40 years LIAT has been directed and managed by rank amateurs – mostly political appointees – with little or no qualifications in aviation or airlines, and I can personally guarantee that even the ones who were partly qualified – some politically-connected pilots, at one time – certainly had no aptitude or management competence.

    The current shareholder Chairman is not only a small minority shareholder (also meaning his share of the losses is very small) but is a proud Marxist, who believes that because LIAT is a regional resource the taxpayers of the shareholder countries should shoulder the cost of operating it, and HE PERSONALLY clearly enjoys the meddling in its daily affairs. This when it is clear that if the airline were at political arms-length and operated by a Board and professional management who actually knew what they were doing it could actually make a profit and take the burden off the shareholders.

    Yes, there ARE regional aviation people who know what they are doing and could staff a very competent Board. But political friends and Party faithful come first – so to hell with the airline and taxpayer money.

    The difference between an international airline and THIS regional airline (LIAT) is therefore politics, constant interference, constant negligence, sheer ignorance, “trying a ting” and refusal to operate it as an airline and not as a private members club.

    I consider it significant that in all the time I have known it (more than 45 years), LIAT has not published a single account of any kind for the public to review, annual or otherwise, although I am, sure the politicians get a peek (if they are even interested). Always bearing in mind that public money purchased the airline in the first place, and public money bails it out every time it slides down into the red ink.

    The only conclusion any reasonable examiner of LIAT could come to for this annual void is that someone – politicians, presumably, since they are the ones providing this protection – have been siphoning money off all these years as yet another way of sucking at the public trough. Whether they were draining the cash away for themselves or for their countries is yet to be seen.


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