LIAT (1974) Workers Facing Retirement Crisis as Social Security Pensions Diminished due to Reduced Pay during COVID-19 Resumption

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
LIAT employees during union meeting in 2020

Source: Real News Antigua: The latest LIAT (1974) workers to be sent home have a new worry: Their diminished Social Security pension means the older ones among them will not be able to retire, as planned.

Speaking for several colleagues, one of the airline veterans now on the breadline explains that, after they were called back to work in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they resumed their usual duties – but at reduced pay.

Given LIAT’s limited schedule once it began service, the ex-employee says the lower rate of pay continued until their current termination, which is effective today, February 5.

What they did not realize, however, was the impact that the almost- four years of lower salary would have on the calculation of their Social Security pensions.

“All the years that we were contributing at the maximum level haveessentially been canceled out by our income from 2020,” the personsays.

Accordingly, the ex-worker notes that those who are currentlyeligible for pension will “not be able to make it.”Instead of going into retirement “after 30 -40 years of work, they’regoing to have to find some little thing to do in order to make endsmeet.”

Those workers who were not recalled to work in 2020 are facingpretty much the same problem, the source says.

Many of them were forced to take lower-paying jobs wherever theycould find them, thus reducing the value of their previous SocialSecurity contributions.

In the meantime, the now-former employee says, they are waitingfor the Antigua and Barbuda Government to resume talks with theirbargaining agent, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union.They say that Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s earlier offer of 50percent of their severance and benefits was “just talk,” as theyreceived no firm offer “in writing.”

“While some workers were willing to take the combination of cashand land, we heard that we had to speak to our individualrepresentatives about getting the land,” one person says. “Therewas never any designated allotment for the LIAT workers. Never!”And with the subsequent 32 percent offer, the person adds, nothingchanged for the locals, even as their counterparts in Barbados andSt. Lucia received ex gratia payments from their governments.

At present, the former workers are extremely angry over statementsmade by LIAT 2020 spokesman Daven Joseph, who recently chidedthe Workers’ Union and urged it to return to the bargaining table inthe ex-employees’ interest.

“He deliberately misrepresented the situation, knowing full well thatit was the prime minister who shut down all communication withthe Union,” a furious former staff member says.

The last set of workers has been promised a computation of theirentitlements within 45 days of their official termination. However,

the company’s administrator, Cleveland Seaforth, has said he doesnot know when they will actually be paid.

Meanwhile, some of the former staff reportedly have been offeredwork with LIAT 2020, whenever it materializes – but at 70 percentof their original salary, they claim.

They, and the other terminated employees, continue to wait to seewhether the assets of LIAT (1974) Ltd. – aircraft, route rights,goodwill, etc. – will be sold for their benefit or simply “acquired” forthe benefit of the takeover carrier.

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