The Government has offered a helping hand to just under 100 displaced Barbadian workers of LIAT, who will get some relief by early next week.
During an hour-and-a-half-long Zoom meeting with dozens of the former employees who have been waiting for well over a year for entitlements from the regional airline, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley promised that each person would receive a one-off gift of $2,000 by Friday — or early next week, at the latest.
This gift, which will be provided by central Government, will give authorities time to put other measures in place that would offer further relief over a much longer period.
All former Barbadian LIAT employees who were based here, paid contributions into the local National Insurance Scheme, and are therefore entitled to severance will now benefit from expedited hearings by the NIS Tribunal.
It is expected that these hearing will also begin as early as next week, with the hope that they will be wrapped up in time for payments to be made just after the end of the month.
Prime Minister Mottley explained that it had become necessary for the cases of these workers to go before the Tribunal since the Judicial Administrator of LIAT in Antigua, Cleveland Seaforth, had so far failed to sign and deliver to Barbados the paperwork that would have automatically triggered severance payments.
The other significant group of LIAT workers being assisted, comprises Barbadians based primarily in Antigua, from whose salaries deductions were made to that country’s Social Security Scheme and who are entitled to severance under that country’s laws.
Arrangements are now being put in place to allow them to receive an advance of $2,000 per month from the Government of Barbados, to be paid back at a future date from any eventual severance settlement.
Prime Minister Mottley explained that this would be provided for up to one year, to be terminated earlier if they are able to find alternative employment before the end of that year.
Mottley stressed that she understood that $2,000 a month would not equate to their salaries or erase the debt and hardships they have accumulated since they stopped working, but she was trying to assist them while balancing it against all the other urgent needs of Barbadians.
In the face of a direct request from the employees who related their encounters with banks and other creditors, the Prime Minister promised to reach out to the sector on their behalf to solicit payment eases.
The workers agreed to the immediate formation of a small working committee to liaise with Government to ensure all information necessary for the fulfilment of the promised assistance is available to the relevant agencies, and the former LIAT workers will meet again with the Prime Minister in 100 days.
Both President of the National Union of Public Workers, Akanni McDowald, and Acting General Secretary, Wayne Walrond, thanked the Prime Minister for the support being offered to the workers by the Government of Barbados.