Strike, late pay hit LIAT
Just days after LIAT unions and management reached agreement on one set of disputed issues, there’s more industrial unrest as ground staff go on strike and the airline says pay this month will be late.
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday June 29, 2011 – News that LIAT workers will be paid late this month and strike action that began yesterday and continues today over contract negotiations, are creating new challenges at the regional airline.
Employees were informed via memo yesterday afternoon that the airline would be late with salaries this month.
The news came as more than 100 Antigua-based ground staff, represented by the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), walked off the job yesterday morning, insisting on a three percent pay increase for 2009-2011 and the following two years. The union had previously been asking for a five percent increase.
However, LIAT is reportedly sticking to its two percent offer.
In a statement issued yesterday, Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown said LIAT is unable to meet “the huge demands”. He said the company had proposed increases which are in line with the current financial and economic conditions.
Brown said LIAT looks forward to the return to the negotiating table and a commitment to exhaust all discussions and grievance procedures before seeking external assistance.
The airline’s spokesman said LIAT’s flight schedule was not affected by the work stoppage yesterday, even though the company was caught off guard.
Brown said LIAT had not been notified of the issues prior to the strike action.
“In fact, LIAT met with the ABWU four days ago on Friday 24th June to discuss the closure of the City Ticketing Offices. Those discussions were amicable and resulted in reasonable settlements for both sides. It is therefore with some disappointment that the company views today’s action,” he said.
A protocol governing those closures, as well as the Voluntary Severance (VSEP) and Early Retirement Programme which is underway, is expected to be announced soon. The union leaders and LIAT representatives sat side by side last Friday at a press conference to make that announcement.
However, ABWU General Secretary Senator David Massiah said on local radio this morning that the two issues were separate and distinct.
He also said it was the unions who were caught off guard with the news that workers would not receive their June pay in time.
“Every union leader that I had discussions with yesterday was caught by surprise,” Senator Massiah said. “A situation like this could not have just arisen yesterday so they (LIAT) had an opportunity to draw in the unions since last week when they had all of us there to talk to.”
The trade unionist pointed out that this latest development affects all LIAT staff and unions would have to decide what the next course of action would be.
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