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Sunday 15 September 2019
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LIAT pilots’ strike threat

TENSION is running high in LIAT operations as both the airline’s management and staff as well as the travelling public keep their fingers crossed to see whether or not the carrier’s pilots would carry out their strike threat over the Easter weekend, one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The pilots, members of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) has been calling on the airline’s management to resolve several longstanding grievances, including late salaries, illegal and unauthorised deductions from their salaries and more recently the dismissal of two pilots following an accident involving an aircraft.

LIALPA claims that no salary increases or rates of pay have been agreed upon for its members flying the new and heavier ATR-72-600 aircraft, which pilots say is a “breach of the collective agreement and the arbitration award, although there have been discussions on the issue.

Pilots also claim that many of the unresolved issues have culminated in “mass attrition” resulting in a shortage of pilots with some 10 percent of the pilot body having left the airline in the past year. They claim the company’s response to this situation is to resort to “unethical rostering practices”, such as discontinuation of crew meal breaks, while the company increased the number of hours flown on the more complex ATR aircraft which have resulted in an increase in fatigue and illness.

In direct response to LIALPA, the company stated that all of LIALPA’s grievances are “either before the courts, or are being dealt with in the normal manner”.

The company’s Managing Director David Evans in a direct statement to the pilots said, “Threatening industrial action shortly before a public holiday, in this case the Easter period, is a common, often repeated and cynical tactic employed by LIALPA to exploit the fears of the travelling public.

“I have had dealings with numerous pilot associations over many years and in many jurisdictions continued Evans, “these dealings have often been tough and uncompromising, but always based on mutual respect and a clear understanding of the needs of the business. This has not been my experience with LIALPA.”

In light of the possible strike action, Evans said, “We will do everything we can to minimise industrial action over the Easter period, for the sake of the travelling public. If, however, there is significant disruption, the resulting financial crunch would mean that salary payments would be further delayed and the airline would be unable meet the demands of its creditors.”

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