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Patience of LIAT workers in SVG waning thin

Patience of LIAT workers in SVG waning thin
LIAT workers in St Vincent and the Grenadines say their patience is waning thin

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The patience and understanding of local LIAT workers are waning thin after nine weeks of being unable to secure a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves to discuss matters relating to the regional carrier’s liquidation.

It was announced earlier this year that LIAT would face liquidation because of its financial challenges. Prior to this announcement, most workers had already been sent home in the fallout from COVID-19.

“We fully understand the complex nature of this situation, the legal ramifications and the current crises engendered by COVID-19, have resulted in an unprecedented economic fallout.   However, our patience and understanding for the past nine weeks, is waning thin,” Jeremiah Howard, president of the LIAT Workers Union in St Vincent and the Grenadines said in a press release.

Howard noted that the Union requested a meeting with Gonsalves, who is the chairman of LIAT’s shareholder governments, in a letter dated June 8 to discuss the matter.

The president said that nine weeks have passed with no appointment while other shareholder governments Antigua, Grenada and Barbados have met with staff in those countries to address the same issues.

“The anxiety and frustration that is being experienced by the staff losing their jobs, through no fault of their own, is now …[exacerbated], by the poor communication with management and the failure to secure a meeting with the Prime Minister to resolve the matter of the outstanding salaries, severance pay and other benefits,” Howard said in the release.

He also said that the crisis is not just about “our fiduciary interest but speaks to a moral obligation to show care and compassion to us as staff members of LIAT and by extension citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in this unprecedented time.  We should be valued like the other shareholders’ citizens”.

Under the Protection of Employment Act of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), if someone is laid off or sent on unpaid leave for six weeks, they should receive severance payment at the end of that period, as it is taken that the individual has been dismissed.

A temporary amendment to this Act however allowed that time to be extended to eight weeks, so as to help with the fallout of the pandemic.

In the release, Howard noted that six active-duty staff have not received a salary since April.

“Their commitment and dedication despite the handling of this situation is exemplary. This arrangement is however under review and simply cannot continue given the lack of reciprocal care and concern for our staff members,” he said.

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