LIAT pilots stage crippling pay protest

At the end of day one of a crippling pilots’ strike, there’s no word of a settlement to the pay impasse between management of the Antigua-based carrier and the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA).

This means that regional passengers – including those travelling in and out of Barbados – who are booked on LIAT flights this week, must brace themselves for the possibility of more disruption, after hundreds were caught off guard today by flight delays and cancellations.

The two parties to the current impasse held talks at the carrier’s Antigua headquarters today with the airline virtually grounded and pilots refusing to fly the ATR 72 aircraft until an agreement was reached on their previously publicized pay concerns.

The ATR 72 aircraft, which seats 48 passengers, was acquired by LIAT back in 2013 as a part of fleet modernization and overall network improvements.

In a statement this evening, LIAT reported that during today’s meeting, a proposal was tabled by the management which would see the pilots receiving salary increases from July 19, as well as an ATR pay adjustment, retroactive to July 2013.

The carrier had proposed that this amount be paid in three installments by October 2017 while the settlement of other retroactive pay would be made in six installments commencing December 2017.

However, this proposal was rejected by LIALPA, which had earlier made it clear that its members wanted no part of any deferrals.

“While the company drags this out, the retroactive payment is increasing month by month to a point where they may have to later approach us to ask for some relief or to write off the outstanding monies owed completely,” LIALPA President Carl Burke had warned in a statement last month.

“The company, since January 2017, remains defiant and has used all reason to evade paying the recently agreed salary/ATR-72 weight pay package. The company has also refused to acknowledge and accept that the association has objected and indeed rejected its proposal to implement a salary deferral programme,” he said.

However, the unions representing LIAT workers have argued that in 2014 they participated in a salary deferral exercise, which was projected for five months, but lasted 14 months, without any tangible results.

In light of the impasse, management today reiterated its call for LIAT to be designated as an essential service in Antigua and Barbuda.

“LIAT continues and strives to maintain the critical connections throughout the Caribbean and sincerely apologizes to its valued customers for these disruptions caused by ongoing industrial action. We will continue to keep you informed of developments over the next few days,” the company said in a statement this afternoon in which it also advised that displaced passengers would be allowed to rebook within the next two weeks with all change fees waived.

The financially strapped airline, is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines with Barbados being the largest shareholder with 51 per cent of its shares.

In a statement this evening, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley therefore said it was incumbent on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to show leadership in this matter and to end the “tireless friction that has encumbered the Caribbean’s only significant regional
air transporter.

“This whole LIAT matter is crying out for strong, decisive leadership,” Mottley said in pressing Stuart to take the lead in finding a solution.

“Enough is enough. Firm decisions need to be taken on LIAT. As the representative for the largest shareholder in this airline, the Prime Minister needs to summon a meeting and deal with these ongoing issues that are contributing to consistent complaints of poor service, and have led to repeated disruption of travel across the region. This rot must stop,” Mottley insisted.

13 Responses to LIAT pilots stage crippling pay protest

  1. BimJim June 8, 2017 at 7:50 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 – not even the 100th 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 – nor the fourth 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. The faces change, but the BS abuse remains the same.

    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, far less management.

    Take look at the current culprits – the effective CEO of the airline right now is a book keeper – and not even a good one – with ZERO experience and qualifications to even be a MANAGER, far less run a fast-moving airline like LIAT. Her previous experienbce was in the hotel 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 either – he was a do-nothing back-room executive – and clearly got the job because he agreed to make no changes. He spent his tenure in the Caribbean 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.

    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 three 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. 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.

  2. Alex Alleyne June 8, 2017 at 8:12 am

    “In this case the enemy is not the employer”……. In the eyes of UNIONS the enemy is the employer………This ides is WORLD WIDE.

  3. Alex Alleyne June 8, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Correction…….”In this case the enemy is not the employee”.

  4. George M June 8, 2017 at 10:04 am

    So many LIAT Managers and yet the LIALPA (employee) issues persists. Can’t hold the Company’s management culpable.
    Solution: Shut down LIAT. Establish a new Eastern Caribbean airline headquartered in Barbados with Private Sector Directorship.
    This could work better for us “fed up” LIAT users.

  5. BimJim June 8, 2017 at 11:38 am

    I know the Members of LIALPA well… they work hard, they are professionals, and they do not take their work lightly. They are very aware that their own actions could shut the airline down, so they do not make decisions unless they have no other options.

    In this case the Board and Executive management agreed to something, were brought to the table by TWO shareholders to ensure they carried it through, and still reneged.

    Research the details and you will see they had no other choice. Something like the Barbados Cabinet taking a deferral in part of their pay – but the pilots don’t have the authority to end their own deferral.

    Put qualified Board Members and a professional management in place, and after a short period of adjustment LIAT can break even or make a profit. But continue to let the politicians appoint their friends and Party faithful to highly technical positions they know nothing about, and we will be required to continue to support LIAT heavily from the taxpayers pockets.

    Did you know that some of LIAT’s new planes were almost repossessed recently? Yeah, but the shareholders and management don’t want you and me to know about that…

  6. Milli Watt June 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    VERY GOOD VERY GOOD…………If I could get this till next week

  7. Biscuits June 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    It takes two to tango! While management of the airline might be poor, the pilots themselves are not without blame, often operating with a sense of entitlement. If the airline closes down what will they do? When there is industrial action neither of these parties have to deal with angry displaced passengers. Instead it is those at the bottom, the counter agents whom are left to face the music and those are the ones who deserve our sympathy.

    • BimJim June 8, 2017 at 10:42 pm

      Pilots at LIAT are professionals and follow their contract to the letter. There is no malice among the Members of LIALPA, they are disciplined and do their jobs to an extremely high standard under sometimes difficult circumstances.

      The fact is that management has for 40+ years antagonised ALL of the LIAT employees because they rose through the ranks and that is all they know – they simply don’t know any other way of managing.

      If YOU don’t mind paying higher taxes to support the LIAT Board and management’s ongoing incompetence and lack of interest, that is your affair, but blaming the pilots for 1. doing their jobs as professionals and 2. standing up for their rights as workers then I have a quarrel with that.

      And you are correct, the people taking the brunt of the passenger ire are the CSRs, but I have never known LIAT management to care whether they were head-butted, grabbed by their collars or cursed at.

      In LIAT management the faces change but the incompetence and constant abuse of employees carries on, and has been there for some 40 years – that I have known of personally.

      • Biscuits June 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        No one is questioning the professionalism of pilots, present or past. As in any organization, there will be those who go above and beyond the call of duty and some who don’t.
        We are all entitled to our opinions. You shouldn’t have a ‘quarrel’ with anyone who may see or have experienced the situation from a different perspective. It comes over as ‘bullying’.

  8. Alex Alleyne June 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    The reason why RED JET went belly-up is because it was PRIVATE SECTOR dollars. LIAT is still going because it is PUBLIC SECTOR DOLLARS……..In other words TAX PAYERS DOLLARS. The few Islands (Mainly BDS) keep flushing money after money down the tube and other Islands in CARICOM enjoying LIAT and don’t put in a cent. No wonder BDS is being laugh at all through CARICOM. If BDS so heavily rely on tourism , then we must find another way of getting here if you cannot get LIAT to work. IT MUST LEAVE ANTIGUA…….ASAP.
    WE ALL KNOW THAT LIAT IS BEING SEEN AND RUN LIKE “BARBADOS BUS COMPANY” ……TRANSPORT BOARD. We continue to pour money into it but will never see a profit knowing that a public transport system is not design to make a profit.

    • BimJim June 8, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      REDjet went belly up through their own ex-patriate arrogance and incompetence as well as the then Civil Aviation Director. REDjet tried to start that airline in Jamaica, but the government there asked them to leave because they were in the middle or privatising Air Jamaica. Irish investors brought REDjet to the Caribbean using a business plan and a budget that MIGHT have worked in Europe; certainly neither worked in the Caribbean. For 50 years LIAT’s problem has been politicians, in their constantly interfering and appolnting unqualified and inexperienced family, friends and Party faithful to Board and technical airline positions for which they have NO CLUE.

  9. Alex Alleyne June 9, 2017 at 10:35 am

    @Bim Jim, What do you think is the reason for LIAT ticket prices being so high just to fly through the Caribbean for 20 to 30 minutes . The flying public are not relaxing on “state-of-the-art” planes.

  10. Karlos Sargeant June 22, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    I Agree With All Your Comments Everyone Liat Needs to get them self alot of Help From Other Airlines Across the World Because the rate there going could cost them there passengers moving on too other Flights Beyond the Caribbean Countries Even Lose there Staff and far worse there Company BARBADOS needs to get back Redjet or Caribbean Airways for BIM The Government was putting too much money in Liat so after LIAT’S Loss of Millions of Dollars it’s on our Government in both Countries and for that the Government have to Suffer Because of the Lack of Managing the Airline Properly so this goes to show if don’t lesson you’ll feel so this will be a Lesson to us and the Government in both Countries.


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