The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

Pi­lots em­ployed with the cash-strapped re­gional air­line, LIAT, last Fri­day con­firmed that they had agreed to a less than 10 per cent salary cut in a bid to keep the air­line in the air. Pres­i­dent of the Lee­ward Is­lands Air­line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion (LIAPA), Carl Burke, told the Caribbean Me­dia Cor­po­ra­tion (CMC) that while he was not at lib­erty to dis­close the ex­act amount the pi­lots had agreed to, pend­ing the Prime Min­is­ter Mia Mot­t­ley of Bar­ba­dos re­ceiv­ing the nec­es­sary com­mu­ni­ca­tion, he was none­the­less in­di­cat­ing that it was not the 10 per cent that had been re­quested.

He said dur­ing a meet­ing with LIAT a re­quest had been made for the 10 per cent pay cut across the board and that the pi­lots “wrote to them and said we did not have the con­fi­dence in LIAT’s man­age­ment to take us out (of this)…and we were very cau­tious about mak­ing an in­vest­ment in the com­pany at this time. We met with the share­hold­ers on Tues­day and Prime Min­is­ter Mot­t­ley did give a guar­an­tee at the share­holder level that she would en­sure that there was ac­count­abil­ity and it would not be busi­ness as usual”.

He said that pi­lots on Thurs­day night “ac­tu­ally voted” on the salary cut and which has since been com­mu­ni­cated to Prime Min­is­ter Mot­t­ley. “At the mo­ment I have to make sure that she has re­ceived our com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­fore I could give you that in­for­ma­tion… [but] it is less than 10 per cent, it is not 10 per cent,” Blake told CMC.

The share­holder gov­ern­ments of the air­line are An­tigua and Bar­buda, Bar­ba­dos, Do­minica and St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines and they have been seek­ing to get other Caribbean coun­tries to con­trib­ute a to­tal of US$5.4 mil­lion in emer­gency fund­ing need to keep the air­line in the sky. At the same time, 11 des­ti­na­tions had been given un­til March 15, to re­spond to the air­line’s min­i­mal rev­enue guar­an­tee (MRG) pro­pos­als. Un­der and MRG model, it is likely that a few flights may be cut if the govern­ment is not pre­pared to fund them

with a guar­an­tee. Me­dia re­ports said that trade unions rep­re­sent­ing the air­line’s work­ers at its 15 des­ti­na­tions had dur­ing a six-hour meet­ing here on Wed­nes­day in­volv­ing Mot­t­ley, her St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines coun­ter­part, Dr. Ralph Gon­salves, agreed in prin­ci­ple to the salary cut, pend­ing fur­ther de­lib­er­a­tions with their mem­bers.

The unions are re­ported to have agreed to a six per cent salary cut. The Bar­ba­dos-based on­line pub­li­ca­tion, Bar­ba­dos TO­DAY, re­ported Fri­day that the air­line could col­lapse if LIAT man­age­ment is not given a pos­i­tive re­sponse from the trade unions be­fore the Bar­ba­dos fi­nan­cial year ends on March 31.

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 pub­li­ca­tion quoted a source as say­ing.

Blake dis­missed sug­ges­tions that the pi­lots were to blame for “hold­ing up” ef­forts to en­sure the sur­vival of the air­line, telling CMC “I don’t think we should have been blamed for that as I stated ear­lier on we have been in a sit­u­a­tion where the man­age­ment has made some se­ri­ous blun­ders over the years and this has placed us in the po­si­tion we are in right now. “The pi­lots took the time out to ex­plain a lot of these things to the share­hold­ers. They ba­si­cally are now be­ing brought into the loop…with the day to day run­ning of LIAT. They lis­tened to us, they are very con­cerned about what the unions brought to the ta­ble. “And as I said Prime Min­is­ter Mia Mot­t­ley be­ing a new player at the share­holder level has recog­nised that things have to be fixed within LIAT or oth­er­wise we will al­ways be com­ing cap in hand to the share­hold­ers seek­ing more fund­ing. This should not be. The share­hold­ers should not be tak­ing tax pay­ers money to place into LIAT like this ev­ery year and hope­fully things will get more se­ri­ous at the board level”.

Blake said that there is need to strengthen the board and that prime Min­is­ter Mot­t­ley has “of­fered the staff two seats on the board of LIAT where the staff could have an in­put at the board level and also the pi­lots have been promised a seat on the sched­ul­ing com­mit­tee to as­sist the sched­ul­ing com­mit­tee in the in­ef­fi­cien­cies in the sched­ule."

“So hope­fully we will see some changes and we will be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to im­prove the com­pany’s per­for­mance,” Blake told CMC.

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