LIAT in first phase of company-wide job cuts
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday May 25, 2011 – Regional airline LIAT is offering workers throughout the company the option of voluntary severance and early retirement as it seeks to cut payroll in a restructuring exercise.
Workers have until Friday to apply, but one of the trade unions representing employees have advised them not to submit applications just yet.
In an email circulated to staff last Friday, the Antigua-based airline announced “the immediate implementation” of the voluntary separation programme, as part of its “strategic efforts to reposition itself as an efficient and successful airline”.
All full-time permanent employees are eligible to apply, with acceptance subject to approval by management. The company has indicated that it will respond to applicants by June 15.
This latest move follows LIAT’s closure of its City Ticketing Offices across the region, which has already started and is expected to save the company US$3 million each year.
However, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) has indicated it was surprised that the voluntary separation offer was made to staff since last Friday, without the union being informed, since there was supposed to be a meeting involving management and unions on the same matter yesterday.
General Secretary Senator David Massiah told a local radio station that he was upset by LIAT’s approach and felt that the unions were being “disrespected”.
“We’ve all accepted and recognised that the company is going through certain challenges and we are seeking to work along with the company, but I’m disappointed that the company has basically gone ahead and sent out a letter to the staff before we had the meeting,” he said on Observer Radio.
That meeting was postponed and is now due to be held next month.
Senator Massiah has told employees to wait before making any decision to apply.
“We are not advising them to do anything until we have some sort of urgent attention from the company and we will so advise our members. We will not be bullyragged or pushed over,” he said yesterday.
“We have not really finalised our discussions with the staff because we were waiting on the meeting…Coming out of that, we would have had some conclusive positions as to what the separation package would look like and how people can proceed.”
The ABWU head said he would have to sit down with other union leaders to determine the next step forward.
He made it clear, though, that the ABWU was not opposed to a voluntary severance programme at LIAT and simply wanted respect from the company.
LIAT has not publicly responded to Senator Massiah’s concerns.
The company has also declined to give details about its targets in the voluntary separation and early retirement programme, including the number of staff it wants to cut and whether it will resort to lay-offs if that number is not reached.
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