After giving 42 years of his life to LIAT, the company’s most senior pilot learned at the weekend that the airline is being collapsed, and he may have to walk empty-handed.
Captain Barnabas Esdale was among seven pilots sent home in late May.
“Seventy-six pilots were laid off on April 1st. Contrary to popular belief, we got nothing on April 1st. We were sent home, we have a particular clause in our contract that we think we should have been entitled to, we got nothing — 76 pilots, April 1st, gone home, nothing in their hand,” the head of LIAT’s pilots’ union Captain Patterson Thompson said.
“Another seven pilots went home between April 20 and 21, and then at the end of May, our most senior pilot, Captain Barnabas Esdale was sent home. He’s the most senior pilot. He’s given LIAT 42 years of his life, his whole adult life has been with LIAT and to hear and to see the public dismissal over the weekend, it’s pretty hard.”
Thompson said there is a lot of disappointment, a lot of worry about severance, and what are the next steps.
“We’re not sure if there is a successor airline, we are hearing things behind the scenes and it’s pretty unsettling,” he said.
“We have a lot of pilots who are young, we have pilots who have one year left in their career and there are lots of emotions. There’s anger at the association.”
Thompson explained that there are nine pilots left with the airline and they have not been paid for two months.
Pilots who were dismissed on April 1 are still owed some of their salary, he said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the shareholder governments of the regional airline, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has sought to assure employees that payment of outstanding salaries and arrears “will be urgently addressed”.
The Antigua-based financially strapped airline owes its staff an estimated EC$94 million in severance and holiday payment, which it is unable to pay.