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LIAT’s setbacks pile on

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LIAT’s setbacks pile on

Unread post by bimjim » Thu May 30, 2019

https://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/2019/0 ... s-pile-on/

LIAT’s setbacks pile on
Melanius Alphonse Caribbean News Now associate managing editor
May 29, 2019


The cash-starved regional airline, LIAT, has lost its appeal against a lawsuit by a former employee, when a judge of the Superior Court of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) dismissed the airline’s appeal and awarded US$1.55 million in damages to William Cherubin.

In his ruling, Justice Douglas Brady said that “the totality of the trial evidence was sufficient to permit a jury to inference that LIAT’s proffered reasons were false” when it dismissed Cherubin.

The judge also declared LIAT, which is owned by several Caribbean governments, had “discharged Cherubim because of his age and in violation of the Virgin Islands Civil Rights Act.

“The Court will deny LIAT’s renewed motion for judgement as a matter of law,” Justice Brady said in his ruling made May 13.

“Evidence of Cherubin’s emotional pain and suffering following his termination was sufficient that the Court cannot find that the jury’s verdict was seriously erroneous as against the clear weight of the evidence.

Justice Brady ruled, “Accordingly, the Court will not interfere with the jury’s award and LIAT’s motion for a new trial will be denied.” Cherubin had taken LIAT to court in February claiming he had been terminated because of his age.

Court documents revealed that June 4, 2015, without notice, the airline fired Cherubin, who was then 70 years old, citing several occurrences concerning breaches of company policy, including two alleged occurrences that transpired in 2009 and 2012.

In 2011, in exchange for voluntary resignations, the airline offered all employees over age 62 a retirement package but Cherubin rejected the offer.

At the trial’s conclusion, the court had ordered LIAT to pay Cherubin damages totalling US$1.55 million, detailing that the airline “unlawfully discriminated against him by discharging him from employment because of his age and awarded damages for lost wages, and mental pain and suffering.”

Justice Brady in his ruling stated LIAT “had not shown that the evidence before the court was insufficient to support the jury’s damages award and LIAT presents no basis for claiming that the damages awarded are so excessive as to violate LIAT’s constitutional right to due process.”

In a separate development, the Barbados government appeared set to walk away from its role as lead shareholder in LIAT, even as prime minister Mia Mottley, remains tight-lipped on negotiations over its future.

Briefly breaking silence on a steady stream of reports from Antigua that her administration was negotiating the sale of its shares to the government in St John’s, Mottley would only say that the government is still willing to support the struggling carrier, but not in its current format.

“There’s more than one way to do that which we have to do, but at the appropriate time with respect to the details of any discussions, I’m not going to disrespect the process and the people with whom we do business. There’s a right way to do things and I will follow that right way.”

Mottley’s comments are the first indication that the Barbados government may have been wavering for weeks over its decades-long policy of unswerving commitment to the airline’s viability, which had been backed by repeated calls by successive administrations to fellow Eastern Caribbean governments to either subsidise the carrier or join as shareholders.

Even as Mottley refused to comment on speculation about the future of Barbados’ ownership, declaring she has no intention of negotiating in public, her Antiguan counterpart, Gaston Browne, reported that Antigua and Barbuda had received communication, that Barbados was willing to shrink its majority 49 percent stake to a mere ten percent.

If the sale goes through, it will result in Antigua and Barbuda becoming the majority shareholder in LIAT with 73 percent of shares.

Mottley gave her assurance that Barbados was still willing to support LIAT but hinted that it would not continue to do so under its current ownership arrangements.

Mottley said when the time was right, she would use the floor of Parliament to speak to the people of Barbados.

Up until then, there was no publicly expressed indication that Barbados was rethinking its ownership of the 63-year-old airline, co-owned with Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and The Grenadines and Dominica.

In mid-March, the chairman of shareholders, Vincentian leader Dr Ralph Gonsalves, made an urgent appeal for a cash injection of US$5 million to keep the airline in the skies, while promoting a minimum revenue guarantee, beyond which LIAT would drop flights on unprofitable routes.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell then indicated it would make a US$1 million cash contribution and would pay additional funds based on load factors into St George’s.

As a major shareholder, Barbados is interested in keeping LIAT flying, but “won’t be the lone ATM machine” for the airline said Tourism Minister, Kerrie Symmonds.

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