At a meeting in Barbados on Monday, LIAT’s three major shareholder Prime Ministers – The Honourable Freundel Stuart QC of Barbados; Dr. The Honourable Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda; and Dr. The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines – have indicated their continued support for the airline.
Under the chairmanship of Dr. Gonsalves, the three Prime Ministers first met with members of LIAT’s Board of Directors and management to discuss the way forward for the regional carrier; and following this the shareholder Prime Ministers, Board of Directors and management met with representatives of LIAT’s 10 trade unions in an effort to foster communication and dialogue among LIAT’s stakeholders.
At a press conference following the meetings, Dr. Gonsalves pointed to the EC$60 million in losses which the airline had incurred over the last two years and noted that the shareholders had agreed with the airline’s management on certain steps for effecting the stabilization of the company. These would involve a range of measures including reductions in the airline’s schedule, enhanced marketing and promotions in a number of markets, improving efficiency within certain departments, and targeted staff reductions aimed at reining-in escalating recurrent costs.
Dr. Gonsalves indicated that the shareholders had noted the continuing challenges which the company faced, including high oil prices; continuing weaknesses in the regional and international economy; intensified competition on LIAT routes; the costs of maintaining an ageing fleet; and industrial relations problems.
Dr. Gonsalves noted that the company had been mandated to put together proposals for possible restructuring of LIAT which would be presented to the shareholders for their review.
He pointed to the significance of the company’s planned re-fleeting efforts, and indicated that following in-depth technical work by a LIAT technical team, shareholder governments would be reviewing the various proposals with the aim of meeting shortly in order to arrive at a recommendation as to the best choices for acquisition of new aircraft for the company.
In relation to the meeting with the unions, Dr. Gonsalves noted the need to continue the dialogue and indicated that a further meeting was planned for LIAT’s management with the unions for the following week to seek to address outstanding issues including discussion of the company’s strategic plan and objectives.
On the matter of outstanding pension payments due to LIAT staff members from CLICO, Dr. Gonsalves noted that information from the Government of Barbados indicated the likelihood of this mater being satisfactorily resolved in the near future.
Chairman of the LIAT Board of Directors Dr. Jean Holder pointed out to the meeting LIAT’s continuing lead role in the movement of people throughout the region. He noted that LIAT remained committed to closer cooperation with other regional carriers where the interests of the airline and its shareholders were sufficiently guaranteed.
In his remarks, Prime Minster Stuart noted the continuing importance of LIAT to the economic and social development of the region as well as its significance to its shareholder countries, and indicated the continuing support of the three shareholder governments to the airline including working with the company’s management to chart a way towards its long term sustainability. “We have, in our discussions today, laid the foundation for meaningful progress on the issue of LIAT,” Prime Minister Stuart said.