Gonsalves chides colleagues over LIAT

Gonsalves chides colleagues over LIAT


Sunday, June 20, 2010

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CASTRIES, St Lucia – St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is calling on fellow Caribbean leaders to either pay up or shut up as it relates to the operations of the regional airline, LIAT.
“None of them putting up any money, you know. Talk is cheap. I am telling them they must put up money. I am fed up to hear other prime ministers, absolutely fed up. They have all kinds of solutions about LIAT, all kinds of suggestions, but they are asked to do one or two things, put equity in it or provide market support,” Gonsalves said.
For two days last week, the operations of the airline came to a standstill after pilots reported sick.
The pilots, represented by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association, have been demanding that the company “pay all monies that are owed due to illegal deductions made from salaries; settle all retroactive public holiday payments; address concerns about the status of current pension deductions and sign-off on a new contract immediately following the arbitration judgement”.
LIAT said in all, a total of 244 scheduled flights were cancelled during the two-day strike.
Gonsalves, whose government along with that of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados are the shareholders of the island-hopping carrier, told regional leaders that if they want the airline to fly a route that is uneconomical, then they should be prepared to pay money to maintain that route.
“They do it for American Airlines, they do it for British Airways, they do it for Virgin but not for LIAT,” he said, adding “the prime ministers of this region who continuously talk about LIAT, stop talking about it and put money in it either in market support or equity”.
Gonsalves said that he was certain the new Trinidad and Tobago government would be helpful in keeping LIAT afloat as had been the case with the former Patrick Manning administration.
LIAT has been in talks with the Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines and Gonsalves said that it had been able to assist in dealing with the backlog caused by the action of the pilots.
“Trinidad has been helpful. This is why when LIAT comes up at regional meetings. I say you have no standing to discuss LIAT, you are not a shareholder. If you want to discuss regional air transportation… we can talk about air transport policy in the region and then we can get around to it, but don’t begin the discussion to talk about a company in which you have no shares”.
Gonsalves said he was not prepared to discuss “in the press right now” the ideas the shareholder governments have for solving the problems that that lead to the pilots taking industrial action.

Related stories:
Sickly LIAT flying again
Pilots' sickout enters second day

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