LIAT Strike LoomingWritten by Nkrumah Baptiste
ST JOHN’S, ANTIGUA – Regional travelers could face possible major flight delays and flight cancellations in LIAT’s schedule should the airline’s management refuse to meet a demand by the union to annul redundancy letters sent to workers at its ticketing offices last week.
Chairman of the Regional Consultative Council of Trade Unions within the LIAT System, Senator Chester Humphrey, said last Friday, that should this happen, the regional carrier would only have itself to blame as it was the company’s resistance that would lead to industrial action by LIAT workers all across the Caribbean.
The workers’ bargaining agents gave the ultimatum as they argued that the airline had gone against the spirit of negotiating in good faith when it went ahead with issuing letters informing 70 workers they would be made redundant on June 30. According to the agents the two sides had not completed their discussions on the protocol governing the closure of the City Ticketing Offices (CTOs). “If LIAT proceeds to effect this termination of the workers’ contract, outside of a conclusion with the unions on this matter, there will be an immediate regional response and that response will be industrial action. We will withdraw our labour throughout the region,” Humphrey said.
“We will be advising our members in each of the territories that as far as we are concerned, this letter is of no effect. In other words, the union and its members would not be bound by this letter. We will direct our members to report to work on the 1st (of July) as is normal and if on the 1st we have not concluded the talks and report to work and their offices are closed, we will consider that an industrial lock-out and we are then free to deal with it as we see fit,” he added.
“This is not a threat but an indication of how indignant and upset we are over the way in which the procedures were used by LIAT in this matter…The ball is now in their court and we hope that LIAT gets the message,” the trade unionist added.
Flanked by representatives of the various bargaining agents for LIAT workers, Senator Humphreys insisted that the unions were willing to work with employers but had to insist on mutual respect as the basis for that collaboration. He said this was the principle stand they were taking in this latest fight. According to Senator Humphrey, LIAT’s actions had “breached the whole principle of a partnership”.
One of the other steps LIAT is taking to reduce its payroll is the implementation of a Voluntary Separation and Early Retirement Programme. The deadline for application was last Friday.