Job Losses To Hit Antigua Hard

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Release Date

Saturday, June 4, 2011


ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, 2011 "' Scores of workers in Antigua and Barbuda were yesterday considering their job futures as two of the island's most prominent businesses and regional airline LIAT, based in that island, moved to cut jobs.

The decision by the Observer Media Group and Hadeed Motors Ltd. to offer staff voluntary separation packages came a day after LIAT informed more than 70 workers at their City Ticketing Offices that they would be getting their pink slips.

The other company, Antigua Brewery, earlier this week indicated that it will be moving its production operations to neighbouring St Vincent, putting about 42 jobs on the line.

Observer and Hadeed blamed financial difficulties for their decisions, while the LIAT move is part of the airlines effort to cut expenses. The company had previously announced that it would be closing its CTOs throughout the region in hopes of saving US$3 million annually.

The redundancies at LIAT will take effect from June 30. Meantime, other airline workers have until tomorrow to decide whether they will accept a voluntary separation and early retirement package as offered by the airline.

Employees at Hadeed Motors and the Observer Media Group will have to make a similar decision in coming days.

In letters to its approximately 28 workers yesterday, Hadeed gave them a month to decide.

The correspondence said that car sales had plummeted by more than 60 percent in the past three years and the company could no longer continue absorbing the losses.

"No company can sustain such a situation for such an extended period of time, and should we continue to maintain the current level of employment, Hadeed Motors Ltd would not be able to survive, and any equity payment due to our longstanding employees could be in jeopardy,"' it said.

The 75 workers at Observer Media Group "' which includes The Daily OBSERVER and OBSERVER Radio "' have been given until next Friday, June 10, to express interest in voluntary severance.

The letter from Chairman Winston Derrick, said the company has been seriously affected by a significant contraction in the local economy and is being forced to reduce the cost of operations. He later told the newspaper that the aim is to trim 25 percent of costs.

"To this end, we have been reviewing the expenses associated with running our business activities with a view to seeing where cuts could be made. As the next step in the process of reducing costs we are giving persons, who so desire, the opportunity to apply for a voluntary separation package from the company,"' the memo stated.

Derrick said that lay-offs could follow if enough people do not express interest in the offer.

"If nobody is being voluntarily separated then we'll have to take the next step and maybe we'll lay off persons for a period of time, but we haven't gotten that far yet,"' he said.

Meantime, Finance and Economy Minister, Harold Lovell met on Tuesday with a delegation representing Empresas Leon Jimenez SA, the company from the Dominican Republic that owns Antigua Brewery, in efforts to keep the business open.

He said the government is exploring a number of options designed to preserve the production of beer and soft drinks in Antigua. The company has said the economic downturn is taking a toll.

"We understand the circumstances that have led the company to take this decision,"' Lovell said, "but we also understand that, under the right circumstances, the production of beer and soft drinks can still be a profitable and successful sector in Antigua. We are therefore looking at all the options, including sale, lease, new investment, and others to revitalize the sector."'

International Director for Antigua Brewery Hector Marine said the company was willing to work with the government to arrive at a resolution that would ensure the company does not completely abandon the Antiguan market.

Both sides agreed to resume discussions within a week regarding the proposals that had been put on the table.

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