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LIAT Loses Thousands of Dollars To Sickout

CaribWorldNews, ST. JOHNS, Antigua, Thurs. May 28, 2009: Preliminary figures released by regional airline LIAT on Wednesday show that the carrier lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of sickout action by some flight crews on Friday, May 22.

`The reports are still coming in, however, the data compiled so far show losses totaling close to EC$350,000.00,` Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown said Wednesday.

`The costs are related to accommodation, transport, meals, airport overtime, staff overtime, charters, positioning costs (aircraft and crew), passenger claims and flight interruption manifests (FIMs) or requests to carry passengers on other airlines,` he added.

Scores of passengers were inconvenienced after crews in Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent and Trinidad called in sick, grounding seven of LIAT`s aircraft, disrupting the airline`s flight schedule for 24 hours.

Among the affected passengers were a large number of travellers making international connections to North America, Europe and elsewhere, as well as heads of government from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States who were in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, for a meeting of the OECS Authority and were due to travel back to their respective countries on Friday.

The disruption occurred as LIAT and nine Trade Unions representing its employees continued negotiations for new Collective Agreements.

As a result of the disruption, LIAT sought; and the Antigua and Barbuda Industrial Court granted an injunction to restrain pilots from further disrupting the airline`s services.

The injunction restrains the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association [and its members] from taking any industrial action or continue any form of industrial action whether by means of strike, go slow, sickout or any other related action, until the determination of the current negotiations, between LIAT and LIALPA.

Since the commencement of negotiations on 11th March, 10 meetings have been held with LIALPA – all of which were initiated by LIAT.

To date 19 meetings have been held with the other eight Trade Unions and those negotiations are proceeding amicably.

In responding to allegations that LIAT had failed to meet the demands of pilots for a wage increase over the years, Brown noted that `wages paid to pilots amount to 34 per cent of total wages paid by LIAT on a monthly basis, while pilots employed by LIAT amount to only 17 per cent of the company`s workforce`.

The LIAT Corporate Communications Manager explained that between 1998 and 2007 Pilots have enjoyed, in addition to an annual increment, several salary increases which amount to approximately 22.5 per cent. The periodic increases ranged from between 2.75 per cent and 6 per cent.