Bird, Gonsalves disagree over LIAT’s future

n this file photo, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, left, laughs with his former counterpart of Antigua and Barbuda Lester Bird.
AP Photo/Andres Leighton

Former Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird has rejected the suggestion by St. Vincent and the Grenadines leader Dr. Ralph Gonsalves for regional airline LIAT to be scrapped and replaced with a new airline.

Dr. Gonsalves, head of LIAT shareholder governments, made the recommendation recently following three days of industrial action by pilots.

However, Bird, the political leader of the main opposition Antigua Labor Party (ALP) said the solution to a labor dispute cannot be the creation of a new legal entity.

Prime Minister Gonsalves’s proposal does not address the issue and further complicates that finding of a reasonable solution in quick time.

The former prime minister insisted that any solution to the ongoing industrial dispute lies with the airline management.

He urged the government to also involve the ALP in discussions on the future of LIAT since his party assisted the Antigua-based airline several times while it was in office.

“The ALP calls on Mr. Spencer to include Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in any consultation and decision-making that pertains to LIAT. The ALP insists on consultations that will include all stakeholders in search of a quick solution,” Bird said in a statement.

“Liat must not and cannot be allowed to deteriorate through stubborn and unbending decisions that will continue to inflict serious damage on the carrier and hurt the island-countries that are dependent on LIAT,” he said.

Labor Minister Dr. Errol Cort is mediating in the dispute that was caused by the recent firing of veteran pilot, Captain Michael Blackburn, chairman of the pilot’s union.

The negotiations are continuing.

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