Antigua Government welcomes lawsuit by LIAT pilots

Passengers boarding a LIAT aircraft

“We are not afraid of going to court…” – the words of Lionel Hurst, the Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office in Antigua and Barbuda, after a court ruled in favour of LIAT pilots.

A high court ruled last week that former LIAT pilots can proceed with legal action against the Gaston Browne-led administration in the twin-island state.

Some 600 of these pilots are seeking to get millions of dollars in severance and other payments entitled to them.

“We are not afraid… the government of Antigua and Barbuda has not done anything that is outside of the legal norm,” Hurst said.

Hurst recalled that the government in St Johns made a compassionate offer of $2 million dollars to the LIAT staff over the Christmas holidays.

“It was well taken up, so, in all likelihood, we will see continued offerings by the government of Antigua and Barbuda to try to ease the hardship which former LIAT employees are facing. We would welcome the court’s intervention if it would mean that it would solve one of the problems relating to staff and cuts in staff payment and so on, so that would be welcomed,” he said.

According to Barbados Today, Barbadian pilot Neil Cave, along with four of his colleagues, had filed a suit in the Antigua and Barbuda High Court, challenging the constitutionality of Section 564(1)(a) of the Companies Amendment Act 2020.

That section imposed an automatic stay of proceedings on all matters against LIAT 1974 Limited, which is currently in administration.

This resulted in a separate High Court claim by the pilots, dating back to 2015 and which was set for trial in 2020, being adjourned indefinitely.

But on Thursday, High Court Judge, Justice Marissa Robertson, upheld the two key contentions of the pilots, ruling that the section of the Companies Act in question was unconstitutional.

She ruled that it is “over broad” and not rationally connected with the objective of the amendment, which is to allow debtors (including LIAT) to pursue rehabilitation by affording it protection from enforcement by its creditors, and therefore, cannot be justifiable.

The judge also ruled that the section infringed the principle of separation of powers as the automatic stay of proceedings removed new and current matters from the oversight of the court.

Commenting on the outcome, pilot Neil Cave told the Barbados news portal that “It’s been a good day, a reward after two terrible years”.

Cave explained that the court challenge originated with a claim against the Antigua and Barbuda government regarding “unauthorised” lodging of pilots’ pensions with the collapsed CLICO International Life Insurance Company Limited.

The dismissed workers have been fighting since the airline’s collapse to get more than EC$120 million owed in severance and other benefits.

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7 Comments

  1. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    April 7, 2022

    “We are not afraid of going to court…” – the words of Lionel Hurst”

    If you are junior to Lionel Hurst late former, I remember late minister in the V. C. Bird Administration, I can understand the reason for the unintelligent stupid hogwash you made in the quote above.

    So, the theory ” like father, like son” holds true in this case, because only a fool would welcome going to court, rather than settle the matter of court! This guy is at liberty to talk such crap, because he knows that as everything else the government on all these small Banana republic: islands have the judiciary in their hip pocket okay!

    If his name sake I am sure is his farther had enough sense, along with Bird, since all George Walters wanted was to be the general secretory of the Antigua Trades And Labor Union, and left Bird to continue as Premier; Hurst was one who objected, which caused a general Strike which toppled Bird, his father and the rest because of their stupidity and greed!

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      April 7, 2022

      Why would this ignorant guy welcome going to court when he cannot predict the outcome ” verdict” of any court unless he knows the court is rigged in their favor!

      On the other hand, the millions it going to cost LIAT he does not have a blasted dime to contribute from his pocket so, that is why he can talk such fart!

      Meanwhile I have nephews working with LIAT in high position, having difficulties and hardship because the pay cheques are not constant!

  2. Grayson J. Stedman
    April 5, 2022

    Continued (8) with liquidation, secured creditors have first claim, then owed government taxes, employees claims, and thereafter unsecured creditors, shareholders are the very last, if there are funds left and can be cents in the dollars or nothing. (9) since the employees have not been settled, it does appears that there no remaining funds to settle their claim (10) the Antigua government passed legislation to prevent creditors from taking legal action against LIAT, in such a situation the employees should hold the government liable to settle their claims. (11) It should be mentioned that CDB loans to LIAT are secured by the respective shareholders governments, and since LIAT is unable to pay, the said shareholders must settle any outstanding loans with the CDB in proportion to their equity holdings. (12) “there is nothing as a free lunch”, the tax payer always foot the bill, (13) if you want to know how badly a government owned entity can be operated, then read the history of…

  3. Grayson J. Stedman
    April 5, 2022

    With regards to severance payments to LIAT former employees and in particular its pilots, there are number of issues related to the collapse of LIAT (1) prior to the collapse of LIAT there were over 700 employees, (2) consultants have suggested between 300 and 350 employees are required for the operation of LIAT, (3) the staff are highly paid and particularly the pilots and even higher than other regional airlines (4) the number of passages and revenue have reduced over some time and management took no action to reduce operating cost, (5) the Antigua Government used LIAT for hiring its supports which were in excess of its requirement and the said government have stalled the restructuring of LIAT to be more efficient and cost effective, (6) when an entity accumulates large operating expenses and losses over an extended period and its liabilities exceeds its assets, its become bankrupt. and the owners can liquidate or the creditors can apply to the courts to so do, (7) to be continued.

  4. Ibo France
    April 5, 2022

    This is a great decision for the former LIAT workers. I hope that justice will eventually prevail for them.

    These beleaguered people are owed $120m in severance pay. Clueless, amoral, evil Adolf Hitler-like character, offers them a so-called ‘compassionate payment’ of $10-20m as a final payment. This is insanely ridiculous. The workers will be idiots to consent to such a deal.

    I will begin to pray night and day for the former LIAT workers to get their right pay. I truly hope the final Court of Appeal rules in your favour for you have suffered far too long. But, remember this, nothing good comes easy.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
  5. Zandoli
    April 5, 2022

    The company should be responsible for paying out severance packages. That money should not come from general revenue of any of the government shareholders. LIAT was and is a separate entity from the government. Gaston Browne should have taken a hands-off approach to the issues as it relates to severance payments. Now that it has immersed itself in the whole process, the former pilots expect them to pay up.

    I was recently talking to a friend who is in the airline business in the Caribbean and he mentioned to me that some LIAT pilots were earning more than pilots at Caribbean Airlines who flew B737 aircrafts. How could LIAT ever hope to survive with such a high cost business model.

    • DA2DBONE
      April 6, 2022

      LIAT is not a publicly traded company. It’s owed by a few share holder governments of the region. Antigua being one of the principal shareholders. LIAT was and is still broke. Where else is the money going to come from?

      By paying that money all Antigua does is increase their share holdings. Which plays into their goal of owning and “saving” the airline in the national interest of antigua

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