LIAT rejects pilots union claims it ‘acted illegally’

ATR-LIAT-72-600ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Monday December 1, 2014, CMC – The Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, had rejected claims by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) that it has acted illegally in respect of court orders and is appealing to its pilots not to take industrial action as being planned for later this month.

“These matters are before the court. In an injunction taken out by LIALPA earlier this year, the court did not grant a restraint order against the company and concluded that the company was entitled to act in the way it did for the benefit and protection of all its employee groups,” said the airline’s chief executive officer, David Evans.

“We will continue to consult on the other claims raised by LIALPA and try to seek resolution, but many of these are constrained by LIAT’s financial position, and it would be simply unjust to prioritise the needs of one employee group over another.

“Whilst industrial action has been suggested by the pilots, we expect that the provisions for resolving grievances under both the collective agreement and the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code will be respected and adhered to.

“These provisions seek to ensure that there is a full expression of the facts and positions of both parties before competent authorities, with a view to finding an amicable and peaceful resolution while continuing to serve the needs of the travelling public,” he said.

The pilots are threatening to take industrial action if the airline fails to meet their demands by December 10.

The pilots say a continued deferral of salaries, the recent dismissal of two of their colleagues and other longstanding issues are among their main grievances they want addressed by the company.

They also want the implementation of a 2010 arbitration tribunal award and a new contract to fly the ATR aircraft being operated by LIAT.

LIALPA in an advertisement in the weekend edition of Daily OBSERVER here detailing its members’ grievances, is also calling for an independent investigation into LIAT’s dismissal of the two pilots for damaging an aircraft during the passage of Tropical Storm Gonzalo in October.

Evans confirmed the dismissal of the two pilots saying “this decision to terminate followed a full internal investigation of the incident during which the pilots were represented.

“The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association has repeatedly called for LIAT’s Management to take action against indiscipline and we are doing just that. The company is committed to improving its service delivery to the public and will continue to take appropriate action as required from time to time.”

LIALPA chairman, Patterson Thompson, said his union is unhappy about the dismissal following an investigation into the incident and that the union would be taking further steps without elaborating.

Chairman of the shareholder governments of the financially troubled regional airline, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he had “not been given a formal report on that, but I have, like everybody else read it and I am sure I will be given a formal report with all the information”.

Evans said that LIAT’s financial position remains precarious and the consequences of any industrial action could put its future in jeopardy.

“The plans of thousands of our customers depend on LIAT during this busy holiday season, and we urge our pilots not to ruin these. We remain committed to dialogue with LIALPA and will strive to resolve our differences,” he added.