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LIAT axes several workers – five from SVG

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Five local employees of regional airine LIAT are among several from around the region who last week received letters from the company, informing them that come June 30, they would be made redundant.{{more}}

The five, who work at the City Ticketing Office (CTO) on Halifax Street in Kingstown, received their letters last Wednesday.

The move to make the workers redundant is being met by resistance by the unions which represent the workers, and they have demanded that LIAT rescind the redundancy letters. If the letters are not rescinded, the unions warn, they will take industrial action across the region.

According to the Daily Observer of Antigua, the warning was given last Friday by Chairman of the Regional Consultative Council of Trade Unions within the LIAT System Chester Humphrey.

The workers’ bargaining agents gave the ultimatum, as they argued that the airline had gone against the spirit of negotiating in good faith when it went ahead with issuing the letters informing the workers they would be made redundant on June 30, even before the two sides had completed their discussions on the protocol governing the closure of the City Ticketing Offices (CTOs).

“If LIAT proceeds to effect this termination of the workers’ contract, outside of a conclusion with the unions on this matter, there will be an immediate regional response and that response will be industrial action. We will withdraw our labour throughout the region,” Humphrey told The Daily Observer, after making that position clear to LIAT’s management.

“And if the discussions between us and LIAT are not concluded by the date that LIAT has given of June 30 and they proceed to shut their offices down, well then they’ll have a big problem on their hands,” Humphrey added.

“We will be advising our members in each of the territories that as far as we are concerned, this letter is of no effect. In other words, the union and its members would not be bound by this letter. We will report to our members to report to work on the 1st (of July) as is normal and if on the 1st we have not concluded the talks and report to work and their offices are closed, we will consider that an industrial lock-out and we are then free to deal with it as we see fit,” he added.

“This is not a threat but an indication of how indignant and upset we are over the way in which the procedures were used by LIAT in this matter… The ball is now in their court and we hope that LIAT gets the message,” the Daily Observer quoted the trade unionist as saying.

In a press release issued last Thursday, LIAT said the closure of the CTOs reflects the prevailing trend by airlines throughout the world towards closure of airline ticketing offices and a shift in distribution and sales to telephone, travel agents and Internet-based channels.

“The shift to these channels represents a part of the efforts by airlines to reduce their recurrent and operating costs in order to maintain competitiveness in a very competitive airline business,” the release said.

LIAT assured that every effort is being made by the Company to work with its union partners to “facilitate the smoothest possible transition for employees at the LIAT CTOs during this period. This includes implementation of a Company-wide Voluntary Separation and Early Retirement Programme, targeted at employees at all levels of the Company, as part of the overall employee rebalancing process.”

Meanwhile, in a release from LIAT yesterday, Monday, June 6, Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Browne noted that the Company’s decision to issue termination letters to its CTO employees, to take effect at the end of June, was dictated by the need for moving expeditiously to reduce its recurrent costs in a structured manner. The total number of affected employees, Browne noted, was less than 40 and responses to the Voluntary Separation and Early Retirement Programme to date had been “very encouraging”.

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