The management of LIAT says it’s proceeding with the introduction of new pension arrangements for its staff following the collapse of the CLICO Financial Group and the need to ensure adequate pension arrangements for staff.
Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown said in a statement that when the old LIAT Provident Fund was closed in October 1997, all employees, including pilots, received all contributions paid in the Fund in a final payment.
“A new Pension Plan commenced in 2006 where funds were deposited into CLICO. The rules governing the new (2006) Pension Plan were not the same as the defunct Provident Fund. The 2006 Pension Plan contains a vesting schedule which determines how much of the company’s contribution is paid to all employees upon departure from the company, depending on the length of their membership in the Plan,” he said.
“The company has duly applied the vesting rules fairly with regard to all employees including pilots. All employees who have had pension claims have had these met in conformity with the requisite rules governing these arrangements.”
The Corporate Communications Manager noted that following the negative developments concerning the CLICO Financial Group, LIAT’s Board and management moved to secure the workers’ pension arrangements by depositing the funds into a commercial bank in Antigua and Barbuda. At the same time, he said, the company sought professional advice on arrangements for the finalization of a robust and sustainable pension plan, and has taken steps to secure pension contributions and finalise pension plan documents for the benefit of all employees.
He noted that LIAT has been consistently updating its employees about the status of the Pension Plan and as recently as July 26, a meeting was held with the consulting Actuary and LIAT workers’ representatives to discuss various provisions and mechanisms for the administration of a new plan.
But in a release issued after Brown’s statement, the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) said it was “appalled and deeply disappointed” that the airline’s spokesman “continues to mislead the public with statements filled with inaccuracies and at times blatant dishonesty”.
LIALPA said, first of all, that contrary to Brown’s statement, all employees, including pilots, did not receive all contributions paid into the old LIAT Provident Fund in a final payment.
It also insisted that no new Pension Plan commenced in 2006.
“At that time, a proposal for a fund was rejected by the employees. We challenge Mr Brown to produce this new 2006 Pension Plan that he is referring to. Even the Arbitration Panel in its 30th June 2010 award stated: ‘There is no such plan in place’. The 30th June 2010 award also stated clearly: ‘we hold that within 12 months, the company in consultation with the pilots shall take all steps necessary to establish a pension scheme for the pilots’,” LIALPA said. “Those 12 months expired on 30th June 2011 and, to date, LIAT continues to ignore the Tribunal Award.”
The pilots’ union said the first and only consultation on a new Pension Plan took place on July 26 this year.
At that meeting, it said, a pension proposal was discussed and management put forward that: the company would be the sole administrator of the fund; the company would appoint all trustees and members of a pension committee; the company can, at will, dismiss any trustee; trustees must obey all instructions of the Company Administrator; the company will control and decide on all portfolio investments; and all charges for fund administration will be deducted from the employees’ allocations.
LIAPA said it would not accept this “one-sided, unfair and undemocratic proposal”