LIAT pilots strike continues into second day
ST JOHN’S, Antigua — As the industrial action taken by LIAT pilots moved into a second day, members of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) continued to refuse to fly any of the airline’s ATR 72 series aircraft.
The partial strike began on Wednesday morning, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded across several LIAT destinations.
The pilots association directed junior pilots still on probation and those in training to report to work as normal.
The airline has had to cancel a number of flights since the strike, however, but remained in the air as the junior pilots continued to fly some of the ATR 72s and the smaller ATR 42s.
Several passengers were stranded in St Kitts on Wednesday morning when LI 512 to Antigua was cancelled, and a handful were unable to travel Antigua on Thursday morning when the that same flight was again cancelled. Other LIAT flights in and out of St Kitts on both days operated as normal.
The pilots association took action after LIAT management failed to honour a salary package arrangement agreed upon in January 2017, despite the threat of strike if the airline did not hold up its end of the deal by June 1.
On Wednesday, LIAT management apologized for any inconvenience the disruption to the airline’s service may have caused, adding that they remain commitment to working with LIALPA to resolve any issues.
They met with representatives from the pilots association on Wednesday at LIAT’s headquarters in Antigua.
According to LIAT management, “During the meeting a proposal was tabled by the management that would see the pilots receiving salary increases with respect to the ATR 72 coming into effect from July 19, 2017. The payment of the retroactive ATR pay adjustment for July 2013 to 2017 would be paid in three installments commencing the pilots’ pay period in December 2017.”
The pilots association rejected the proposal.
Management said it would continue to inform of developments over the next few days.
More fuel may have been added to the fire with the announcement by LIAT management that pilots can no longer fly free as part of the crew or use rebate tickets; they would have to purchase tickets at full price if they wish to travel on LIAT flights.
In a statement on Thursday, the government of Antigua and Barbuda condemned the strike action.
“The pilots have been offered a reasonable payment schedule that takes into account the cash-flow position of the airline. Instead of exercising restraint and responsibility, the pilots have rejected the offer in an attempt to squeeze the cash-strapped airline to pay them immediately,” the statement said.
The government pointed out that everyone connected to LIAT is aware that the cash-strapped carrier is very much dependent upon the treasuries of the four owner-countries in order to survive.
“These four states are incapable of making large payments to LIAT at this time, given the fiscal challenges which they face. It is unreasonable for the pilots to expect the governments to subsidize the excesses of their unreasonable strike action,” it said.
Since neither LIAT nor its owner-governments possess sufficient financial resources to honour the demands for increases, the called for restraint to be exercised by the pilots; failing which the pilots will destroy the airline and their own employment options.
“Such an outcome would serve only to harm the Caribbean people, and to undermine the probabilities of attracting more governments to share the burdens of providing for our own air links. LIAT is an expression of our Caribbean sovereignty and independence. Its destruction, fueled by unreasonable demands, can benefit no one,” the government said.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda called upon the LIAT pilots to return to work and to continue the negotiations leading to their payment in full of the amounts agreed to, in a mutually satisfying period.
West Indies News Network contributed to this report.