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Trade Unionist Not Support Strike Action For LIAT Pilots

Leeward Islands Air Line Pilots' Association
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Trade Unionist Not Support Strike Action For LIAT Pilots

Unread post by bimjim » Wed May 14, 2014

http://www.winnfm.com/news/local/8339-t ... iat-pilots

Trade Unionist Does Not Support Strike Action For LIAT Pilots
Ken Richards
Tuesday, 13 May 2014

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Continued late payment of salaries by LIAT could result in industrial action, the airline’s pilots have warned.

However one of the main trade unions representing LIAT workers is of the view that the struggling airline should be given an opportunity to pull itself out of its financial difficulties, without the threat of strike action hanging over its head.

Antigua-based Observer Media has been reporting that several LIAT pilots have indicated that they are fed up with receiving salaries sometimes as late as nine days after they are due at the end of each month.

The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) is reported to have passed a motion at a recent meeting allowing the executive to take the strongest possible action on the late salaries matter.

However speaking days prior to the latest warning about possible industrial action, Chester Humphrey of Grenada’s Technical and Allied Workers Union – TAWU, suggested that LIAT should be given a break from strike action.

Chester Humphrey“There is a view among some of my colleagues, ‘Let’s go on strike,’ but if you go on strike for a company that already can’t pay, how does a strike help you? And how does a strike help the business?” Humphrey

TAWU is one of the key trade unions representing some of the employees of the regional airline.

“I have had to be constantly explained to my members in LIAT and throughout the region that…the company is facing grave difficulties and therefore we have to learn to [cooperate]. It is not an easy thing to do, because the tradition of the trade union movement is one of an adversarial relationship, but these are changed times and therefore we have to change our approach,” Humphrey said, going on to express optimism that LIAT will eventually turn things around.

The trade unionist says a regional approach will help put LIAT on a sound footing.

According to the company, its cash flow problems have been exacerbated by the servicing of a US $165 million loan for its re-fleeting programme.

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Re: Trade Unionist Not Support Strike Action For LIAT Pilots

Unread post by bimjim » Wed May 14, 2014

In or out of a Trade Union, anyone with experience in aviation will tell you that if an airline cannot pay its bills it is better for everyone that it be shut down.

The most glaring example was Eastern Airlines, which was taken over by a financial shark and quietly stripped of its assets in the background - that shark was subsequently banned from ever touching an airline again.

The staff there saw late salaries, then no salaries, then furloughs, then they were paid partially in the airline's shares, and when it finally went under the rest of the industry so recognised their plight that all of the stranded employees were given free passages back to their domiciles.

Lack of financial integrity not only destroys staff and their families (life savings, retirement packages, mortgages, car payments, schooling, etc.) but affects the suppliers and their families and takes the aviation industry even further into disrepute.

In the case of LIAT, the very top of the pyramid scheme is composed of shareholder Prime Ministers without any aviation knowledge who have placed their own political appointees (also without any aviation knowledge) on the Board, and of those made someone Chairman who is not only ignorant of aviation but has now proven himself incompetent several times over.

In fact, Chairman Jean Holder seems to have almost abandoned his LIAT duties totally in favour of writing one incomprehensible "expert" book after another on tourism, a field he was last involved in at least a decade ago and which now bears no resemblance to what he knew.

This Board of incompetents chooses CEOs, local and foreign, and then ties their hands. The airline in effect continues being run by middle management who ensure that no changes are effected, and the airline bleeds money like a stuck pig hung up to drain.

The previous CEO, for reasons that are clearly suspect, convinced the non-aviation Board to convert to an all-new fleet of aircraft which 1. were supposed to perform better, 2. were supposed to use less fuel, 3. were supposed to require less maintenance, and 4. were supposed to cost - all in - US$100 million.

In fact the new ATR types 1. Perform only slightly better than the Dash-8s, 2. use the same or more fuel, 3. require more maintenance (but that would be partly compensated within the warranty term), and 4. will actually cost closer to US$250 million, and LIAT is already feeling the financial pinch.

In addition, the narrow landing gear profile means that they are unable to handle the cross-winds that the Dash-8 deals with daily as a matter of course. Dispatch reliability (just doing the schedule, regardless of weather) goes out the window with the ATRs, no matter how new or reliable (??) they may be.

Had the Board been aviation-savvy it would have taken just a few minutes of knowledgeable research into the fleet change proposal and a couple of phone calls to discover that it would have cost a fraction of that US$100 (US$250 ??) million to refurbish all of the Dash-8s to new condition - and that "meltdown" last August due to crew and other problems would not have happened.

Let us not forget the political charter (PM of Taiwan, I believe) which Brunton sent out in the middle of the disgusting mess of a "meltdown", taking one of the new aircraft off line and stranding even more full-fare passengers across the network. That it had been booked months before was irrelevant, LIAT could have easily called in a sub-charter from such a nearby airline as Air Caraibes in Guadeloupe or Caribbean Airlines in Trinidad and done the right thing in a crisis by putting literally thousands of their own passengers first.

So LIAT is in crisis - yes, again, and again, and again... and again - but apparently the Board and management is so used to being in crisis mode that they do not recognise it as such any more (so for LIAT, crisis mode is probably now the new normal).

But no, the proven incompetent Chairman was given yet another 100 days by his incompetent seniors to come up with yet another incompetent plan, and the new CEO is so ineffectual that instead of getting down to the business of fixing the airline, his first two public actions have been to visit a TV studio in Barbados for a video chat program and then to visit St. Vincent for a briefing by the pair of grand old aviation incompetents themselves, PM Ralph Gonsalves and Chairman Jean Holder.

Which means that his critical first 15 days have come and gone without a single genuflection to the travelling public that there is a new Sheriff in town about to blow the bushwhackers out of the saloon.

The FACT is that LIAT's long-time core supporters - its long-suffering sub-regional passengers - no longer see LIAT as "we airline".

The FACT is that LIAT is now seen as a royal sub-regional pain in the butt, no longer as that charming, yet bumbling, air service they tolerate.

The FACT is that in 2008 LIAT carried over 1.6 million passengers, just five years later - in 2012 - that had fallen to half that number, and last year (2013) it fell yet again.

But the FACT remains that LIAT still has the same number of aircraft in its fleet and the same number of employees - about 850 - yet they are threatening to cut destinations (and therefore the possible number of paying passengers = revenue).

I relate this to demonstrate that there can be no question that LIAT, without question in yet another crisis, is on its way out. The airline simply can no longer survive because the business they do and the way they INSIST on doing it is no longer sustainable (if it ever was).

What makes this far worse is that management continues to tell us, the taxpaying public - who pay for LIAT and its losses - that its affairs and accounts are "none of our business" and that we THE OWNERS OF THE AIRLINE are not entitled to know what the (OUR) airline is doing.

Any management expert in aviation will tell you, unequivocally, that LIAT's "best-by" date came and went decades ago, that its entire Board and management stinks, and that it should be closed down in favour of private enterprise.

Such an expert will also tell you that in cases of repeated salary problems there is clearly a serious management dysfunction, and that employees not only have a right to be paid, but to be paid on time.

In brief, seen from the other direction, how would management want to treat the employees if they (the employees) delivered their services two or three weeks late?

The airline LIAT, its Prime Minister shareholders, its Chairman and Board, its executive management and finances are all completely out of control. Whatever alternatives may be available, there can be no question that it is time to shut LIAT down.

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