The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union is aware of recent comments Prime Minister Gaston Browne made in the media concerning the ongoing severance dispute between the former employees of Liat 1974 Ltd. and the shareholder governments. Browne’s statements allege that the ABWU has been politically motivated in its
advice to the former Liat workers. The ABWU views Browne’s comments as a deliberate
distortion of the reality and mischievous as best!
The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union maintains its position that while the shareholder
governments may not have a legal obligation to the ex-workers, they have a moral responsibility
to reach a mutual settlement with the former employees. Such a settlement must take into
consideration the workers’ reasonable expectations of their terminal benefits. This position is one
that is held by all of our partner unions throughout the Caribbean; it is not the conjecture of a single
union working in isolation to aid a political party.
As many have recognized, the real intent of Browne’s mischievous statements was to continue to
manipulate the former workers into relinquishing their just claims to severance or fair settlement,
by accepting his government’s “compassionate offer”. This disgraceful tactic is appalling but not
surprising as Browne has made it his government’s mantra to bully and trample upon the rights of
workers. Browne’s “compassionate offer” is anything but compassionate! At best, it should only
act as the starting point for discussions. To date, more than half of the workers have rejected this
offer. The ABWU applauds the dozens of workers who have refused to trade-in their hard earned
benefits for a fraction of the value.
Gaston Browne’s vehement objection to any form of dialogue towards settling the severance issue
is unreasonable and unwarranted. Even his colleague Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has called
for a “humanitarian” solution that would involve some level of “compromise” by shareholder
governments. Moreover, in April, Prime Minster of St. Luca, Phillip J. Pierre, committed to
making severance payments to the non-management staff of the airline, even though his
government is not among the shareholders.
The ABWU remains committed to securing a fair and reasonable settlement for the ex-employees
of Liat, and we hereby reiterate our call for dialogue. We condemn any act of intimidation,
manipulation and mischief by the Prime Minster or any of his agents.