LIAT looking to High Court in Blackburn case

ST JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda, Thursday, March 28, 2013 – Last week’s decision by the Antigua Labour Department that LIAT airlines had unfairly dismissed former pilot Captain Michael Blackburn is not holding much weight with the regional carrier. 

In a recent press release LIAT revealed that in fact Captain Blackburn had filed proceedings in the High Court of Antigua (case ANUHCY2012/0536) against LIAT challenging his December 2011 dismissal just two months after he referred the matter to the Labour Department in Antigua and Barbuda.

Therefore, argued LIAT: “In these circumstances where the complainant commences High Court Action before the determination of the conciliation process before the Labour Department, the complainant would usually be regarded to have signalled his intent to have the matter determined by the Court instead of the Labour Department as it is incongruous for both the Labour Department’s conciliation and a High Court Action to be subsisting simultaneously.”

Moreover, revealed LIAT, the High Court Action was in fact last heard on March 5, 2013, when an interlocutory application by Blackburn was dismissed with costs by the Court.

LIAT maintained that the conciliation process is a confidential process which requires the agreement of both parties to any recommendation for a settlement to be achieved. However, no award was made by the Labour Department and LIAT has not accepted the recommendation of the unfair dismissal.

The Antigua-based regional carrier said it was obliged to proceed with the action commenced by Captain Blackburn before the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda.

In the meantime, The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) has come out in strong support of the Labour Department’s decision in favour of their former leader. 

“LIALPA is happy the Assistant Labour Commissioner recommended that the Company must duly compensate the Captain for unfairly dismissing him. We are very satisfied that every effort was made to compromise with the Company, and not necessarily decide who is right or wrong, but rather to bring the situation in line with the grievance procedure of the collective agreement. This agreement was completely bypassed by LIAT. 

“Captain Blackburn has always maintained that his actions did not warrant dismissal, the Company failed to follow provisions of the collective agreement with LIALPA, and his actions were not committed on the job but rather were conducted as Head of the Pilots union and were pursuant to trade union activities. Since his dismissal, LIAT has withheld the former employee’s earned wages and other benefits that are contrary to the Labour Code. 

“LIALPA continues to pledge its support to Captain Blackburn in getting what is legally due to him. We hope that LIAT will acknowledge its procedural errors in handling this matter and will quickly recognize the wisdom in bringing the issue to a speedy resolution,” said a recent statement by the trade union.  Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)