BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CMC) – The President of the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIAPLA), Captain Carl Burke, has apologised to the travelling public in the Caribbean after pilots refused to fly the ATR72 aircraft operated by the regional carrier, LIAT, over salary increases.
“Well first of all, with the most recent situation which took place last week, I want to apologise to any persons that were inconvenienced and I want to give them all reassurance that the pilots normally, usually exhaust all means of negotiations with LIAT….,” Burke told WINN FM radio station.
He told radio listeners the LIAPLA had brought in an attorney to assist it with the negotiations and that “there was a deal that was brokered in the Attorney General Labour Minister’s office on the 24th of May and we thought that would have put the matter of negotiations to bed.
“Unfortunately the company did not follow through, or wrote us on the second of June indicating that they could not meet to some of the terms and conditions which were agreed to, but in general before any action is considered we always try to exhaust all means of negotiations that are arriving at.
“We just don’t take action like that and in this case the pilots had no alternative than to stop flying the ATR 72, I think that they could be viewed as being reasonable that they were negotiating a rate of pay for an aircraft that is not covered under your contract for four years, I think four years is a long time,” Burke said.
According to LIAT, it operates 10 ATR aircraft with the ATR72 capable of carrying 68 passengers, “by refusing to fly the ATR72 on the morning of June 7th, several aircraft and passengers were delayed at points of departure, including Trinidad, St Vincent, Tortola and Guyana”.
The airline which denied reports that it had abandoned its pilots, said that “in this situation, the company’s priority remains to transport our loyal and paying passengers”.
Burke said that under the new the agreement that ended the three-day industrial action, “the pilots will start receiving the wage package or the new ATR salary from July 19th 2017”.
He said the retroactive payments will be in three tranches paid from August.
“So I guess August, September, October, and then there’s a gap and then there’s another schedule which will commence I think December for six payments. This was an agreement that was reached, it was formalised by way of a consent order which was filed in the Industrial Court on Saturday,” he said, adding “this has basically brought a close to the negotiations with LIAT as it pertains to wage packages with the pilots”.
Asked by his radio host as to whether the agreement will work given that the airline and its pilots have had a series of disputes over the years linked to pay and work conditions,’ Burke told listeners he was confident it would succeed.
“Well it should because as I said it is now a legal obligation on the part of the company, the mere fact that it is filed in the Industrial Court, any breach of the agreement, any party will be charged with contempt of court, we are hoping that everything stays on schedule, that we can have this matter behind us and we can move forward.”
LIAT’s main shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Efforts to get other regional governments to become shareholders have so far proven futile.