Posted on

Rift in LIAT pilots association about Captain Blackburn

Share

Fri, Dec 16. 2011

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – A rift has developed within the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) over its handling of the dismissal of Captain Michael Blackburn from the regional airline, LIAT, well placed sources said Wednesday.{{more}}

Blackburn, LIALPA’s Chairman, was summarily dismissed by LIAT on December 5 and the action led to a two-day sickout by pilots that crippled the airline’s operations and leaving thousands of passengers across the region stranded.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and his fellow shareholder prime ministers have described the two-day sickout by LIAT pilots as untimely and unfortunate.

He said the industrial action would only damage the financial prospects for LIAT and affect passengers.

Informed sources told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that a significant section of LIALPA’s membership signed a petition on Monday demanding a general meeting to air their concerns regarding the LIALPA executives’ handling of Blackburn’s dismissal.

The disgruntled pilots are of the opinion that Blackburn exceeded his bounds with his statements and also that LIALPA should have used other means, such as the law courts, for a resolution on the matter of his dismissal.

The sources said that the demand was rejected by the Executive Council on the grounds that the signatures were unrecognisable. The pilots’ call for a meeting was turned down, despite the fact that the printed names of the signatories were also attached to the petition.

In addition, the LIALPA Executive Council indicated that they could not hold a meeting because their chairman was unable to travel to Antigua, where the majority of the membership resides.

But the sources said these members are now claiming that they are being excluded from what should be democratically determined decision-making processes.

The LIALPA constitution states that a meeting must be held if there is a minimum of 15 signatories. The petition had significantly more than the required amount.

On Tuesday, unions within the LIAT network warned that the airline could be hit with more industrial action after talks over the dismissal of Blackburn broke down on Monday.

Chester Humphrey, chairman of the regional grouping of trade unions representing LIAT workers, said that the two and a half hour discussions mediated by Antigua and Barbuda’s Labour Minister Dr. Errol Cort broke down without an agreement on reinstating Blackburn.

The airline, which operates 110 schedule flights daily, has maintained its position regarding the decision to dismiss the experienced Blackburn, indicating there were “appropriate remedies” for their grievance under the established procedures of the Labour Code and other legislation.

Last week, pilots with the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) reported sick for duty in support of Blackburn, who is also the LIALP chairman.

Humphrey told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that LIAT management refused to budge on the union’s position that Blackburn was dismissed for exercising his right to freedom of speech as a trade unionist.

LATEST NEWS