Prime Minister Browne Urges Release of $12.1 Million to Former LIAT Workers

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
LIAT Staff at recent meeting with union in 2020

Prime Minister Browne Urges Release of $12.1 Million to Former LIAT Workers

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced a significant step towards addressing the plight of former LIAT workers.

In a public statement on radio over the weekend, Browne revealed his intention to formally request that the shareholding governments of the former LIAT 1974 Limited and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) subordinate their interests in $12.1 million currently held in escrow at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. This move aims to make these funds available to the former workers of the now-defunct airline.

“I am now calling on publicly and will be writing to them formally on Monday, calling on all of the shareholding governments of the former LIAT 1974 Limited to subordinate their interest in that money,” Browne stated. He emphasized that the funds should be redirected to provide ex-gratia payments to the former employees as a form of severance pay.

Browne highlighted the unfair position the Caribbean Development Bank placed the workers in by securing loans against the aircraft.

“The loans that were issued to the shareholding governments were sovereign loans, and there was absolutely no need for the Caribbean Development Bank to take any lien over those aircraft,” he explained.

He argued that this action prejudiced the interests of other stakeholders, particularly the staff, who would have otherwise had priority to the $12.1 million.

In his upcoming letter, Browne will urge the CDB and the shareholding governments to release the escrow funds to pay the former LIAT workers.

“This money should be made available to the administrative LIAT 1974 Limited to pay the staff. This does not negate the shareholding governments from paying the difference so they get their full 100%; that is just a start.”

Browne underscored the workers’ reliance on governmental support, stating, “LIAT workers felt that LIAT had the support of all the governments, and I don’t believe at any point any of them contemplated that they would have worked for an airline that would have gone belly up and that their severance would have been prejudiced.”

He also addressed the financial implications for the shareholding governments, noting that the amounts involved would not significantly impact their budgets. For example, the Barbados government would only need to cover approximately $6 million, and the Antigua and Barbuda government around $4 million. “These amounts cannot hurt the respective governments, but the staff have been hurting for years,” he said.

Browne’s call to action extends to all stakeholders, including the CDB, emphasizing that the sovereign debt will continue to be serviced.

“The equitable position is for these stakeholders—these four governments and the CDB—to subordinate their interest and allow the $12.1 million to go towards paying severance,” he declared.

This initiative aims to provide relief to former LIAT workers across the Caribbean who have yet to receive their severance payments, ensuring they are compensated for their years of service. Browne’s proposal is expected to garner significant attention and support as the region seeks to address this long-standing issue.

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