The LIAT politics

The industrial impasse between LIAT workers in Grenada and the management of the regional island hopping air carrier is more than cause for serious concern in Grenada.

The issue is a rather complex one in light of the fact that the cash-strapped air carrier is not in a position to find the money to meet the demands of the workers – whether legitimate or not.

This airline is in serious financial difficulties like most air carriers throughout the world.

Some blame poor management for LIAT’s difficulties, the ineffectiveness of its ageing aircrafts, as well as the many unprofitable routes that have to be serviced in order to provide a transportation service for the peoples of the Caribbean.

However, what THE NEW TODAY newspaper would like to warn Grenadians about is the tendency by some to use the current problems between LIAT and its workers to score cheap political points.

A case in point is a recent release put out by the main opposition New National Party (NNP) to seek to blame the current government in St. George’s for not doing anything in the current situation.

The release said in part: “The New National Party is particularly concerned that the Tillman Thomas Government has been unable to negotiate a settlement between LIAT and the Union over the past two years and has simply resigned itself as a stakeholder partner in this ongoing dispute, indeed the plight of the workers at LIAT seems to be furthest from the agenda of the NDC Government. In particular at a time when all Grenadians would be preparing to return their children to school and with Grenada’s continuing worsening economic situation causing untold hardships on these workers and their families.

We again urge the Government to take an active part in this outstanding issue and to cause an early settlement, mutually beneficial to all parties.

As a responsible Opposition Party, we therefore call on the NDC Government as a shareholder of LIAT and stakeholder partner in this dispute, to immediately broker a creative permanent solution to this long outstanding issue to the benefit of all parties concerned and in particular the Grenada based workers of LIAT.

We also call on the Government to immediately arrange with LIAT, so that Caribbean Airlines or other Carriers could accept the ticket stock from LIAT passengers, travelling in and out of Grenada between the two main gateway points of Trinidad and Barbados, as a temporary protective measure for passengers. The Government has a responsibility to even issue a guarantee, in this matter to the airlines mentioned above, and to diligently force an immediate settlement between LIAT and the workers”.

Can anyone imagine the NNP urging the Tillman Thomas government to use its powers as a shareholder and stakeholder in LIAT to find a solution to the problem? Is the Mitchell-led party for real? Should the NNP be taken seriously with its posturing?

The reality of the situation is that the three major shareholder governments in LIAT are those in Barbados, St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Antigua/Barbuda.

The former NNP administration under the leadership of Dr. Keith Mitchell when in power had stated publicly that it would not put a penny of Grenada’s money into the coffers of LIAT.

As a matter of fact, the former Prime Minister announced to the public that he was totally against monopolies such as LIAT in terms of air carriers in the region.

Some of the pundits in the region including one current Prime Minister hinted that the former Grenada Prime Minister started to adopt a hardline policy towards LIAT due to an apparent personal encounter with the airline.

So the bottom line is that the Government and People of Grenada had little or nothing to do with the restructuring of LIAT in which the three governments named above were left to find the monies to recapitalise the company. These are the countries that can call the real shots where LIAT is concerned – not Grenada and the others who are not the main financial contributors.

And today, the NNP is putting out statements calling on the new rulers in Grenada to do something in the current dilemma.

If the truth be told, Grenada has no seat on the Board of Directors of LIAT and is in no position to influence policy decisions on the inside.

The actions of the past NNP government not to contribute to the coffers of LIAT virtually disenfranchised the country.

There is no doubt that a strike by LIAT will cause tremendous difficulties for the travelling public from the northern to the southern Caribbean.

A LIAT strike will cause disruptions to businesses in and out of Grenada at a time when the country can ill-afford to lose any money.

The coffers of the Grenada Airports Authority will be affected because it derives a lot of money through landing fees at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).

This newspaper would like to see some kind of settlement to the impasse because LIAT has a tremendous role to play in air transportation in our region.

The unions representing the workers in the various islands need to be cautious in their dealings with LIAT and not push the shareholders to the point where they might be forced to declare the company bankrupt.

The shareholder governments must have a Plan B to deal with the current situation and potential problem posed by the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) of Senator Chester Humphrey.

What is the plan and who then will be the biggest losers – the workers, unions or shareholders?

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