Following public concern as to a possible breakdown of regional air services over the Christmas period, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, held a series of meetings on Friday aimed at promoting resolution to a number of the issues presently confronting relations between regional airline LIAT and the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA).
The meetings were attended by senior representatives of LIATs management and senior members of the LIALPA executive, as well as by attorney general and minister of labour, Steadroy Benjamin and other senior legal and civil aviation officials.
In his remarks, Browne emphasized the importance of LIAT to the regional economy, particularly Antigua and Barbuda, and called on all parties to take good faith measures to ensure that there would not be any unnecessary disruption to flights during the busy Christmas and New Year holiday period.
He noted the challenges that continued to plague the regional airline industry, especially LIAT, and highlighted the potentially adverse impacts that industrial action could have on the already financially strapped carrier. In this regard he called on management and unions not to take any measures that might place the airline in further jeopardy, while confirming his government’s continuing financial and policy commitment to LIAT even during a period of financial austerity.
Both parties pledged their commitment to resolve amicably the present industrial relations problems and in particular ensure that there would not be any disruptions to services over the upcoming holiday period.
The meeting discussed a number of recommendations put forward by Browne for addressing current outstanding issues and agreed that they would need to refer the matters back to their principals for their input.
Browne for his part pledged to hold discussions with his counterpart LIAT shareholder prime ministers in order to advance the need for pragmatic responses to the current issues, some of which are of long standing.
It is expected that the next round of discussions between the parties will take place early in the New Year.