ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, August 11th, 2011 – The management of LIAT (1974) Ltd has taken note of a “Strike Notice” from the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) over the closure of the Bridgetown City Ticketing Office (CTO) and would like to clarify certain issues in this regard.
On Wednesday 3rd August 2011, LIAT closed its Barbados CTO. This closure followed a decision ratified by its Shareholders and almost two years of discussions between the Company and its 10 trade unions including the BWU.
Over the last 19 months, LIAT has not only made a strong case for the fact that the present business model, which has become the norm in airline distribution, no longer requires CTOs; the Company has demonstrated that the continued expenditure on the CTOs was contributing to draining its financial resources to a dangerous extent.
For 19 months, LIAT has made every effort to discuss with the unions the plans for the closure and the implementation of these plans. These discussions have resulted in a protocol, signed between the Company and unions on July 11 this year, which ensures that all severed employees are fairly treated and receive benefits which in all cases are more beneficial than severance benefits in local legislation and the various Collective Agreements.
The BWU did not agree to sign the protocol with the other unions and has advised that Barbados, being the largest Shareholder in LIAT, has committed itself to job security through its Social Partnership Agreement. The BWU however stated that while not agreeing with the closure, it wanted to be assured that its members would receive settlement on the same basis as agreed with the other unions.
The BWU, while being represented at all the meetings over the 19-month period, has never mentioned referring the matter of the CTO closure to the Barbados Social Partnership mechanism.
Additionally, the 10 trade unions of LIAT, after consultation with the LIAT Board and Shareholders, have established a Consultative Committee for the expressed purpose of facilitating discussions and resolving issues of common interests to unions and staff – exactly the kind of matter now being put forward by the BWU as a dispute.
The Consultative Committee ensures that all unions receive the same information about the Company’s industrial relations policy and financial circumstances and where remedial action is required, are presented in each other’s presence with terms that are equally favourable.
For LIAT, a regional Company, after 19 months of negotiations, which resulted in closing all the other CTOs, now to keep the Barbados office open, would raise all kinds of questions which could cause the Government of Barbados and the leadership of LIAT to be seen in a very unfavourable light by other countries and unions concerned.
LIAT has had a number of bilateral discussions with the BWU, which never seemed to get past the BWU’s original position that the office was not to be closed.
However, with the competition present and future which now confronts LIAT, and in the present economic climate, it cannot continue to incur unnecessary costs by maintaining levels of employment way beyond what can be justified on commercial grounds.
In fact, LIAT’s survival will depend on its ability to trim costs further and to find ways of increasing its revenues. For this, the Company needs the understanding and support of all its unions.
LIAT regards itself as a good corporate citizen and a responsible employer and would like to reiterate that due notice was given to both the severed employees and their union, the BWU, on the closure of the Bridgetown CTO.
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