LIAT considers the statement to represent the views of the pilots and that it is highly suggestive of industrial action being threatened. Threatening industrial action shortly before a public holiday, in this case, the Easter period, is a common, often repeated and cynical tactic employed by LIALPA to exploit the fears of the travelling public.
Chief Executive Officer David Evans said all of LIALPA’s grievances are either before the courts or being dealt with in the normal manner. Specifically:
1. Pilot dismissals: The company is quite convinced it acted correctly in this matter, and it is before the courts.
2. Fleet renewal: 90% of the new fleet will be in place by April. The removal of the old fleet has been hampered by lack of capital, soft economies, weak aircraft markets and unnecessary industrial action.
3. Pension Fund: Deductions are neither illegal nor unauthorised. The Courts held that in the management of the pension funds, the company was acting in the best interest of its employees.
4. ATR pay rates: There is no breach of the Collective Agreement or the Arbitration Award. Both require the parties to negotiate. The company has proposed an increase. The pilots are demanding an 18% increase across the board, which is impossible for the company to meet.
5. Loss of pilots: Attrition rates in the pilot community are 5%, which is at or below the average for regional airlines globally.
6. Crew Rostering: On average LIAT pilots fly less than 50 hours every four weeks. LIAT complies fully with all applicable ECCAA regulations, which permit significantly more flying hours per pilot than currently obtains. LIAT is hoping, in the future, to attain the levels permitted by the regulator.
Mr. Evans said shareholder governments have said that they are prepared to put more equity into LIAT providing it reduces its costs and improves its operational performance. The largest contributor to LIAT costs is employee costs. All shareholders are unanimous in their agreement that costs must be reduced. With respect to operational performance, the single largest contributor to poor performance is unplanned crew absence.
“I have had dealings with numerous pilot associations over many years and in many jurisdictions. These dealings have often been tough and uncompromising, but always based on mutual respect and a clear understanding of the needs of the business.
“This has not been my experience with LIALPA. Unless we can reach a common understanding of LIAT’s current circumstances, LIAT’s future looks bleak.
“We will do everything we can to minimise industrial action over the Easter period, for the sake of the travelling public. If however, there is significant disruption, the resulting financial crunch would mean that salary payments would be further delayed, and the airline would be unable to meet the demands of its creditors.
“Such a situation would put LIAT in a position of no return, leading to a shutdown of the airline. This would be catastrophic for the entire region and its economies, and or the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of people,” CEO Evans said.