Administrator suggests airline would collapse if the appeal court allows former workers and other creditors to sue the company

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

THIS STORY WAS FIRST REPORTED BY BARBADOS TODAY

A group of former Barbadian LIAT pilots is pleading with Prime Minister Mia Mottley to urgently intervene to help resolve their longstanding pay issue even as the airline claims it will collapse if the Antigua Court of Appeal allows the ex-employees to sue the company for money owed. CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR WHATSAPP GROUP.

A terminated Bajan pilot, who is part of a group of 10 claimants seeking access to the courts in St Johns to carry forward a case requesting severance and other compensation, said on Tuesday it is time Prime Minister Mottley steps up and rescues them once and for all.

“We continue as Bajans, as Barbadian citizens that hold ID cards and passports, to reach out to our honourable Prime Minister Mia Mottley, to intervene in this matter and to do right by us,” the former LIAT pilot who preferred not to be named, told Barbados TODAY.

The claimants, who comprise ex-pilots from several other Caribbean countries, are preparing for a legal battle in the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in St Johns on June 28.

That is when the court will hear the appeal lodged last month by the government-appointed administrator of the airline Cleveland Seaforth who is asking the appellate tribunal to stay the execution of an earlier High Court decision, which ruled as unconstitutional, an initial court judgment that blocked anyone from suing LIAT for outstanding monies.

“We are opposing the application, but at the end of the day, I just want the point to be made, that here it is, they [LIAT] have sent home all of these people. We are at the weakest point in most of our lives and the government of Antigua is using taxpayers’ dollars to fight the small man, the employee, from being able to have his right to go to court, to be heard…to determine whether or not he becomes a creditor. To me, that is dangerous,” the distraught terminated pilot argued.

But in his affidavit that supports the airline’s appeal, Seaforth warned that if the appellate judges turn down its application for a stay, the decision would spell the death knell for LIAT.

“Without a stay of execution of judgment, the decision of the High Court will open up the flood gates for claims or litigation and undermine the attempt to reorganise the airline,” Seaforth submitted in his affidavit.

“This may or will lead to the complete collapse of the airline and the jobs currently in play,” the administrator warned.

He contended that it will also have a serious negative impact on the government’s efforts to save the company, jobs and generate revenue and ensure the continuation of its business.

“I will also have great difficulty in executing my duties under the Act, in that I will have to spend a great deal of time navigating claims or litigation, which may ultimately defeat the re-organisation objectives under the Act,” Seaforth stated.

He has also told the Court of Appeal that LIAT is of great national and public importance to Antigua and Barbuda, as it contributes significantly to the economy

“LIAT is of great national and public importance to Antigua and Barbuda, as it contributes significantly to the economy.

“It is a matter of public interest that the stay should remain in place. If the stay is lifted and the several claimants are permitted to pursue their claims against LIAT (1974) Ltd and enforce a judgment, then this will result in numerous other creditors filing claims before the High Court of Justice and the Industrial Court,” he declared

“This will certainly affect the financial stability of LIAT (1974) Ltd., its ability to operate and to make payments to current employees which will result in the ruin of the institution and lead to exponential litigation costs on the resources of LIAT (19740 Ltd,” Seaforth added.

The administrator has pointed to a series of claims against the airline including that of the 10 claimants in Antigua who are seeking judgment of EC$5 million and a class-action suit by ex-employees in Grenada who are trying to enforce a judgment for EC$2 million.

“If the stay of execution of judgment is not granted, then LIAT (1974) Ltd. may be required to pay over a judgment sum to the respondents in Antigua and possibly across the region without any likelihood of the sums being returned if the appeal is successful,” Seaforth argued in his affidavit.

Hundreds of ex-LIAT employees are owed about EC$80 million (US$30 million) in severance payments after being sent home some two years ago. — Barbados TODAY

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