WHILE a proposal to liquidate regional airline LIAT is being “contemplated,” no final decision has been made, according to its CEO Julie Reifer-Jones.
The announcement was initially made by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Saturday.
Speaking on local radio, he said, “A decision will have to be made to collapse it and then maybe the countries within the region will have to come together to form a new entity.”
The 64-year-old airline is collectively owned by the governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica.
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves sent a letter to staff on Monday.
He said the airline has been “struggling to recover from a devastating hurricane season” since 2017.
“The major shareholder governments have made every effort to support the airline,: he said. "However, with the current pandemic affecting all sectors of national economies, the major shareholders are unable to give LIAT needed support.”
He said there will be a general meeting to discuss “considering the closure of the airline.
"The shareholders understand this information is disappointing and an unfortunate result of the circumstances, but will ensure that the process is fairly and justly undertaken.”
In 2019, Gonsalvestold Newsday most of the staff had agreed to take a six per cent cut in wages over three years, including a wage freeze, but pilots had remained the lone holdouts.
Also in a letter to staff on Monday, its CEO Reifer-Jones said the announcement created “shock waves” across the region, adding that the covid19 pandemic has created “unprecedented challenges” for the airline.
“The efforts (to safeguard LIAT’s survival) have not been successful, and the shareholders are contemplating a proposal to liquidate the airline.
“This is a sad moment for us all after 64 years of connecting the region. Many of you were temporarily laid off at the beginning of the covid19 crisis. No one could have predicted the length of the impact of the pandemic or how far-reaching the implications of this shutdown would be for the entire Caribbean region.
“The way forward for air transportation in the region is not entirely clear but these matters are being discussed by the Caricom governments.”
“The payment will be based on the total balances as at December 31, 2019 less the earlier payout. This should assist employees while other matters are being considered. Preparation for these payments is underway and employees should be notified sometime this week.”
She said she understands this is a challenging period but urged employees not to lose hope and to stay safe.