The Antigua and Barbuda government will seek parliamentary approval later this month to declare the regional airline, LIAT, an essential service.
Antigua and Barbuda is among the shareholder governments of the airline, which is headquartered here. The others being Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Information Minister Milford Nicholas said that the Gaston Browne administration had during its weekly Cabinet meeting this week had decided to declare the airline’s operations here as an essential service as a means of also protecting its investment in the financially burdened airline and ensure its long-term viability.
“Can you imagine life without LIAT without our ability to have inter-regional meetings even for us to be able to satisfy pleasure,” Nicholas said, adding that many people would be flying into St. Lucia this weekend where the West Indies are playing England in the third and final test of their cricket series.
The government said it would bring to parliament on February 21, the relevant measures to declare LIAT an essential service.
Melford said that the action would only apply to LIAT workers based here.
“I believe that there was an early meeting involving Prime Minister (Dr. Ralph) Gonsalves, (Of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and Prime Minister Gaston Browne and there might have been another with the unions representing LIAT (workers) in the network and clearly the reality of the situation and the gravity of the situation are known to the unions.
“I think they have accepted in part there have to be some adjustments,” he told the state-owned ABS Television.
The Essential Service Act 2008 places restrictions on industrial action and employees terminating the contract without due notice.
The Antigua and Barbuda government also authorised a new EC$16 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) loan facility from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to assist the airline in its restructuring efforts.