Travellers still reeling from the shock grounding of budget Caribbean carrier RedJet are now facing the prospect that all major inter-regional travel could come to a halt if industrial action hits LIAT.
The Antigua-based LIAT has the Antigua & Barbuda's Workers Union (ABWU) up in arms following its recent announcement that it was terminating employment of 25 airline workers and now the Ministry of Labour has invited the two parties to the bargaining table in a last-ditch effort to stave off threatened industrial action.
The meeting is slated for tomorrow (Friday) at 10 a.m.
This development comes a day after ABWU general secretary Senator David Massiah warned the company of "dire consequences"' if it failed to rescind letters which informed staff of the Quikpak Cargo Department that they would be without jobs from Sunday.
Last week LIAT issued redundancy notices to all but three employees in its Cargo and Quikpak Department in a cost-cutting bid.
The cargo section was launched one year ago and in a release issued on Tuesday, the cash-strapped airline announced plans for the further outsourcing of its Cargo and Quikpak operations at a number of its stations in the Caribbean.
The ABWU described the move as "premature,"' noting that it had requested a comprehensive management plan from LIAT to help better manage the lay-offs, which the company failed to provide.
Massiah, who is also president of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, said he had commenced discussions with regional trade unions on how exactly to carry out the action.
He also called on shareholder governments to meet with regional unions in another bid to smooth out issues between LIAT and regional unions representing the company's employees.
Following the new intervention by the Ministry of Labour, Massiah has publicly confirmed that he would attend the meeting .
LIAT's Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown also stated the company had "willingly agreed"' to the meeting, noting that it was a welcomed development that should "provide comfort to the airline's passengers"' and ensure there is no disruption to operations.
He also pointed out that contrary to some media reports, Caribbean Airport Services CAS, the handling company expected to take over aspects of LIAT's handling services for Cargo and Quikpak in Antigua, is an Antigua-based company.
Brown noted that CAS, which is majority-owned by LIAT, already provides ground handling services for LIAT and had been set up in 2002 with the purpose of providing outsourced ground handling and other airport services to airlines operating at the VC Bird International Airport in Antigua.
Picture credit to Biz Journal Online