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Letter emailed to LIAT Acting CEO

Antigua Trades and Labour Union
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Letter emailed to LIAT Acting CEO

Unread post by bimjim » Fri Jun 12, 2009

12 June, 2009

Mr. B. Challenger
CEO (Ag.)
LIAT (1974) Limited
VC Bird International Airport
West Indies


Briefly, I am a born Barbadian – now also an Antiguan national – who worked as a pilot for Four Island Air and LIAT from early 1980 to late 1995, flying Islanders, Trislanders, Twin Otters and then the Dash-8s. My LIAT employee number is XXXX, and my flying experience is over 13,000 hours and over 24,000 landings. I took medical retirement from LIAT in 1995 due to a failed cataract operation which (temporarily) damaged my retina, and I now live in Canada.

Every time there is a change of CEO, I try to communicate asking for certain changes… I am hoping this time, even with limited tenure, you may see your way clear to beginning to make a difference where others have shown the usual lack of interest – and none of this is at such a level that it would require Board approval.

First, my LIAT Retired Employee ID has an expiry date – which is patently ridiculous, especially because LIAT’s card carries a photo of the employee and is encased in plastic. Further, nobody is more conscious of closely and deliberately matching the real identity to the traveller than everyone working at an airport – this is one of the few places in the world you have to present passports, driver’s licences and other pieces of matching photo identification, starting at the first point of contact - the check-in counter.

Sir, I am medically retired, 60 years of age, and my features have settled to a more-or-less permanent position – they are unlikely to change (so there is no need to update the photo). LIAT should once and for all stop this silly nonsense of making all retired persons waste the time of HR personnel and consume LIAT’s resources every few years to have their IDs renewed. And there was simply no excuse for this folly in the first place... in my opinion if one person abuses a privilege or right then that person should be dealt with, and blanketing the entire workforce with impositions is the incorrect approach.

I ask that you discontinue the expiry dates on retired employee IDs.

Second, it has been a fact for many years that LIAT’s Interline Agreements – the agreements with other airlines which determine how the employees get rebates with them and they get rebates with us – are painfully aged and considerably out of date.

I ask that you direct ** an interested member of management ** to immediately review LIAT’s Interline Agreements and initiate negotiations will ALL of them with a view to implementing Service Charges – as opposed to percentages of the all-year fare. While doing so, it might be useful to add airlines with whom LIAT does not currently have Interline Agreements, AND to have a Staff Directory so the employees (and hopefully the retired employees) have a reference to go by.

Third, it has been a fact for some time that it is cheaper – and faster (same day confirmation) - for LIAT employees to purchase a confirmed LIAT seat through the LIAT web site as a fare-paying passenger than to go through HR to request a rebate, receive an RCA, and then take that to the airport to buy the ticket FOR A SEAT THAT IS SUBJECT TO LOAD (not confirmed), a process that NORMALLY takes no less than three weeks.

In other words, LIAT employees now get a cheaper - and confirmed - seat by paying full fare than buying a company travel perk on which they can still get “bumped”: from a flight if it is full.

One of the concepts of employee travel is to receive some – any – revenue for an empty seat rather than let it go unused. Once the passenger door for a specific flight closed, all revenue for that seat closes with it.

I ask that you implement a simple and affordable Service Charge for LIAT employees on LIAT flights (which may be two-tiered – confirmed and subject-to-load). This same Service Charge might also be offered to other airlines in re-negotiation of the Interline Agreements.

Fourth, as a retired employee based in Canada, I can currently purchase a flight on LIAT through the LIAT web site using a credit card, and have an “eticket” emailed to me within an hour – and I did so last Friday.

Yet to purchase a LIAT rebate – whether on LIAT or any airline LIAT has an agreement with - I am refused (by HR) the use of a credit card by email for payment. I must ask a friend in Antigua to come and pick up the requested RCA, buy the ticket, and then mail the ticket to me by the usual postal service – all of which can take six weeks or more.

There MUST be a way devised for a retired employee based outside of Antigua to pay for tickets by credit card, and to receive official etickets by email… I simply do not understand why it would not be possible for me to provide HR with my needs and my credit card number, and receive an emailed PTA or other official LIAT travel document within 48 hours.

Between more expensive “discounted” flights and a long drawn-out difficult process it appears that LIAT management is actually discouraging employees from using the rebate privileges.

I respectfully ask that you consult with Mr. Andy Benjamin – or those who created the reservation facility on the web site - on this and see whether there is not some way LIAT employees inside and outside of Antigua can make travel arrangements and payments on the LIAT web site – using, perhaps, discrete log-ins arranged beforehand.

Fifth, in 2003 I found employment with the TTC here in Toronto as a bus driver. From the moment I sat in the driver’s seat - as a trainee - I was making more salary than I was at LIAT when I left. The fact is that I am making more than twice that now as a mere Divisional Clerk, and my salary goes up every year.

I have not paid a cent in health benefits since the end of my probation (6 months). Government health insurance (OHIP) takes care of some expenses, but does not pay for dental, eyes, glasses, chiropractor or any prescriptions… but my work health benefits do, and all the way to 100%. My company benefits actually pay out more than the government benefits.

My personal observation and opinion is that when Mr. Duprey became LIAT Chairman some years ago, he took advantage of that position for his own aggrandizement, and at that point LIAT employees started losing all of their health benefits - because in the pursuit of greater profit he raised the premiums and lowered the coverage substantially.

But now, given the size of LIAT’s workforce, I put it to you that there MUST be some leverage to both make improvements and save money. I believe that all it takes is some diligent work and consideration on the part of a manager who is both competent for and interested in the task.

I ask that you direct ** an interested and qualified member of management ** to review ALL of LIAT’s employee benefits and initiate negotiations will ALL regional providers with a view to securing better benefits at lower premiums. And if regional institutions refuse to better the deal, I suggest that LIAT look outside the region for improvement and relief.

Sixth, this is the second time that negotiations with the pilot body has taken a decade or more – I was Secretary of LIALPA during the last one, and because I was Secretary I know for a fact that LIALPA had completed the contract termination process to the letter, the contract had officially and legally expired, and management was still ignoring that fact when the sick-out occurred.

In this year’s instance, to the costs your staff has calculated ($350,000, I understand), I suggest you add the salaries of TWO senior pilots and TWO managers (the minimum) and whatever meals or other expenses they would have incurred, TIMES 12 years, as well as the lost public good-will caused by the sick-out. If you ignore the lost good-will and compare that total dollar cost ($350,000 plus over $600,000 a year times 12 – well over $8 million) against what your negotiators are refusing to pay the pilots – or demanding the pilots lose in salary and benefits – I suspect to the more logical head the long-haul of contract negotiations may not seem to be worth the ongoing years of industrial disharmony and friction.

I suggest that you impose a time limit on salary negotiations with all employee groups (perhaps two weeks?), and at that point any remaining outstanding issues be immediately referred to an independent and agreed arbitrator with each side making their presentation and leaving the final decision is his/her hands.

As anyone who knows of me will tell you, I remain 100% a LIAT supporter (though not 100% a LIAT management supporter!). I do seriously wish the airline success and prosperity, and firmly believe it should grow and thrive to become the truly Caribbean airline – performing the same kinds of extra-regional services Caribbean Airlines and Air Jamaica now offer as well as the current intra-regional services.

Thank you for your time and attention…

James C. “Jim” Lynch
Thornhill, ON CANADA

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