Barbados TODAY – There is a very real possibility that regional carrier LIAT could be grounded for good.
The airline’s fate now rests with trade unions, who were given until 5 p.m. this evening to report back to LIAT’s management on whether their workers would be willing to accept a pay cut.
A well-placed source told Barbados TODAY that during an almost six-hour meeting at the Hilton Barbados yesterday with Prime Minister Mia Mottley and chairman of the LIAT shareholder governments, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, trade unions agreed to a six per cent pay cut in an effort to keep the regional carrier afloat.
However, those trade unions, which also included the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), said they would first need to report back to their membership before any agreement could be reached.
The source said if the trade unions and LIAT management failed to reach an agreement by 5 p.m. this evening, the airline could collapse.
“Today at 5 p.m. is do or die. LIAT’s finances are so dire that if they do not come to an agreement to allow for savings for the shareholders, which would keep LIAT viable, the airline could fold,” the source explained.
The source further explained that the timeline given was critical as Barbados’ financial year ends on March 31.
The source said officials in the Ministry of Finance were working “around the clock” so that in the event an agreement was reached, an emergency injection of funds would be made available to support the cash-strapped airline.
If that money is not accounted for this financial year, Barbados, the main shareholder, will be unable to inject any funds into LIAT due to IMF restrictions, the source said.
In a telephone interview with Barbados TODAY from St Vincent just after 9 p.m. – four hours after the reported deadline had passed – Gonsalves, who was in a meeting, said he had not yet heard of any further developments.
“I don’t know if they have sent anything to the CEO of LIAT . . . but I am in a meeting right now,” he said.
When contacted, Roy Morris, Press Secretary to Prime Minister Mottley confirmed that the trade unions had asked to report back to their membership at the end of yesterday’s meeting.
“The meeting really was to try to achieve certain agreements from staff that would allow the airline to proceed on a restructuring programme given its dire financial position. That meeting achieved certain results, but the unions needed to go back to their membership to get certain proposals that were hammered out in caucus here, ratified since a number of them had said they were not authorized by their membership to alter at that stage and hence were given a timeframe within which to return information on whatever they agreed to the shareholders,” Morris said.