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visa-free

Taiwan announces visa-free entry for allies in Caribbean

 
TAIPEI, Jul. 12, CMC – The Government of Taiwan on Wednesday announced visa-free entry for nationals of its diplomatic allies in the Caribbean, with immediate effect.

visa-freeAccording Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is being done to “demonstrate the closeness between Taiwan and its allies in the Caribbean “ and “the principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity”.

With this development, nationals of Belize, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, St Kitts Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines will be given visa-exempt stays of up to 30 days.

Meanwhile, nationals of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua will be granted visa-free stays of up to 90 days.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry in its statement said It is hoped that the change “will lead to an increase in tourism, business, trade and cultural exchanges at multiple levels.”

The announcement was made  during Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes’s state visit to Taiwan, was meant to highlight the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Paraguay and to commemorate the two countries’ friendship.

Paraguay first granted Taiwanese nationals 90-day landing visas on November 20, 2012, while the 10 other allies already grant visa-free entry to Taiwanese nationals.

All 11 allies were included in Taiwan’s e-visa program on Jan. 12 last year, the ministry said.

Cartes’ visit comes after Panama cut formal ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with China on June 13, leaving Taipei with only 20 diplomatic allies.

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sky-news-logo

Huge fire engulfs west London Grenfell Tower block

Families try to find one another as a number of fatalities is confirmed and firefighters try to rescue those who remain trapped.

 
Full story: Huge fire started nearly 12 hours or so ago – engulfs Grenfell Tower block – Sky story
By Sunita Patel-Carstairs and Aubrey Allegretti, News Reporters

At least six people have been killed – and others remain trapped – in a large fire on a west London estate being battled by more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines.

Hundreds of residents in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower have been evacuated from their flats in the burning building, and at least 70 people have been taken to five hospitals in the capital for treatment.

Witnesses described hearing screams, watching people jump out of the high-rise block and a baby being dropped out of a window and caught on the street below.

Fire at a tower block in Latimer Road
Image: Debris fell from the tower as it was engulfed by a huge inferno

Others told of seeing people shouting and waving from the windows for help, and residents shining torches from within as the inferno erupted in the dead of night.

Mahad, who escaped the fire-ravaged block, said the blaze began when his neighbour’s fridge exploded.

He told Sky News: “There was no alarm, there was no bell, there was no sense of urgency.

“My neighbour is the one who knocked on our door. He said it as his house where the explosion happened. He said his fridge had exploded.”

A structural engineer assessed the tower’s stability but judged the building was not in danger of collapsing.

Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said: “I can confirm six fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days.”

:: LIVE: Fire service chief confirms fatalities

Footage on social media showed the tower block engulfed in fire, with huge flames stretching over several floors.

The fire brigade said the fire had spread throughout the entire building, now covered in plumes of smoke with visible pockets of fire within the charred structure.

Mini explosions could be heard as the blaze shattered windows in the tower, while debris and ash fell to the ground.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton described it as an “unprecedented incident”, something she had not seen in her 29 years of service.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known, but is being investigated, she added.

Firefighters have managed to reach the 20th floor as they continue searching for remaining survivors.

Any residents unaccounted for who escaped are being urged to contact the emergency services to reassure concerned loves ones.

Reporting from the scene in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, Sky News producer Dan Cairns said residents had been told that if they received calls for help from people inside, to tell them they needed to try and “self-evacuate”.

He said they had been told “to put a cloth over their mouths and try to get out by themselves”.

Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene, said he feared the block could collapse.

He said: “It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.

“People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon. I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes – it’s just very distressing.”

Witness Samira Lamrani said she saw a woman try to save a baby by dropping it from a window “on the ninth or 10th floor”.

She said: “The windows were slightly ajar, a woman was gesturing that she was about to throw her baby and if somebody could catch her baby.

“Somebody did, a gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby.”

London Ambulance said it had sent a “number of resources” to the scene, including its Hazardous Area Response Team, after the fire was first reported at 12.54am.

It also confirmed 20 people are currently in critical care.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is visiting the site, said “a lot of people” were unaccounted for and that of the 120 flats in Grenfell Tower, many had four-bedrooms.

He added that questions needed to be answered in relation to the blaze.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” by the “tragic loss of life” and has called a cross-party meeting.

Joanna O’Connor, a local resident, told Sky News: “At about 2am I was woken up by screaming, sirens and helicopters. We came outside and were confronted with the building that was completely engulfed in flames.

“It was a real shock and there were hundreds of people lining the streets, we could still hear screaming from the building and people were milling around in shock, crying.

“One of our neighbours, her sister, husband and children were in the building, it was their neighbours’ flat that caught fire. So it’s very close to us, we’ve got neighbours whose families are in that building.”

Celeste Thomas lives across the road from the tower and said residents and families were “trying to find each other” following the evacuation.

She said: “Police have moved everyone back out of direct sight but I can hear cracking and debris falling.”

The tower block – which was refurbished internally and externally last year – is situated on the Lancaster West Estate, between Latimer Road Underground station and Westfield’s White City shopping centre.

Transport for London said there was no service between Hammersmith and Edgware Road on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, while the police said the A40 was closed in both directions, owing to the fire.

Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said several hundred people will have been in the tower when the fire broke out.

He said emergency centres have been set up for evacuated residents, and that the council is “providing as much support as we can”.

“Emergency services have set up a big cordon around the area, it’s quite hard to get accurate information but the council will be doing all it can.”

Grenfell Action Group said its warnings about safety fell on “deaf ears”.

In its blog post dated from November 2016, the group warned “only a catastrophic event” would expose the issues residents had with the building – including its one entry and exit and concerns about evacuation procedures.

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, said the Government has resisted calls to install sprinkler systems in high-rise blocks in the wake of the 2009 Lakanal House tragedy.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who was a firefighter for 20 years, added: “There’s obviously a huge number of questions going to have to be asked about what happened.

“It’s a bit early to start pointing fingers, I would have thought.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the public to donate clothes, food and toiletries at St Clements Church for families displaced by the fire.

:: Anyone concerned for loved ones can call an emergency hotline on 0800 0961 233.

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LIATT

LIAT pilots apologise for inconvenience, outline new agreement

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Jun 13, CMC – The President of the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIAPLA), Captain Carl Burke, has apologised to the travelling public in the Caribbean after pilots refused to fly the ATR72 aircraft operated by the regional carrier, LIAT, over salary increases.

“Well first of all, with the most recent situation which took place last week, I want to apologize to any persons that were inconvenienced and I want to give them all reassurance that the pilots normally, usually exhaust all means of negotiations with LIAT….,” Burke told WINN FM radio station here.

LIATTHe told radio listeners the LIAPLA had brought in an attorney to assist it with the negotiations and that “there was a deal that was brokered in the Attorney General Labour Minister’s office on the 24th of May and we thought that would have put the matter of negotiations to bed.

“Unfortunately the company did not follow through, or wrote us on the second of June indicating that they could not meet to some of the terms and conditions which were agreed to, but in general before any action is considered we always try to exhaust all means of negotiations that are arriving at….

“We just don’t take action like that and in this case the pilots had no alternative than to stop flying the ATR 72, I think that they could be viewed as being reasonable that they were negotiating a rate of pay for an aircraft that is not covered under your contract for four years, I think four years is a long time,” Burke said.

According to LIAT, it operates 10 ATR aircraft with the ATR72 capable of carrying 68 passengers, “by refusing to fly the ATR72 on the morning of June 7th, several aircraft and passengers were delayed at points of departure, including Trinidad, St Vincent, Tortola and Guyana”.

The airline which denied reports that it had ‘abandoned its pilots, said that “in this situation, the company’s priority remains to transport our loyal and paying passengers”.

Burke said that under the new the agreement that ended the three-day industrial action, “the pilots will start receiving the wage package or the new ATR salary from July 19th 2017”.

He said the retroactive payments will be in three tranches paid from August.

“So I guess August, September, October, and then there’s a gap and then there’s another schedule which will commence I think December for six payments. This was an agreement that was reached, it was formalized by way of a consent order which was filed in the Industrial Court on Saturday,” he said, adding “this has basically brought a close to the negotiations with LIAT as it pertains to wage packages with the pilots”.

Ask by his radio host as to whether the agreement will work given that the airline and its pilots have had a series of disputes over the years linked to pay and work conditions,’ Burke told listeners he was confident it would succeed.

“Well it should because as I said it is now a legal obligation on the part of the company, the mere fact that it is filed in the Industrial Court, any breach of the agreement, any party will be charged with contempt of court, we are hoping that everything stays on schedule, that we can have this matter behind us and we can move forward.”

LIAT’s main shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Efforts to get other regional governments to become shareholders have so far proven futile.

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sea search

Search continues for six persons missing at sea; no death confirmed

By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jun 5, CMC – Rescue teams resumed their search Monday for six nationals reported missing at sea after the speedboat in which they were travelling began taking in water on Sunday.

However, Lieutenant Ragguette of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Coast Guard, said that the Coast Guard had no confirmation that any of the missing persons had been found, dead or alive.

sea searchRagguette, who is acting as commandant of the Coast Guard, said that two local Coast Guard vessels, as well as others from neighbouring countries are involved in the search.

A number of aircraft are taking part in the search and rescue operation, in which the Regional Security System is also involved, Ragguette said.

Ragguette said that the Coast Guard is not releasing the name of the missing individuals until it has completed the requisite verifications.

The chief of security on Mustique, Martin Findlay, where the missing persons worked, also said that the Mustique Company would not be releasing the names at this time.

Ragguette said that the Coast Guard was aware that there were rumours circulating on social media that the bodies of some of the occupants of the missing boat had been recovered.

He, however, said that the Coast Guard had not confirmed any such reports with any of the vessels or aircraft involved in the search.

Ragguette said that the search resumed early Monday for the four females and two males, including the captain of the vessel.

He said the Coast Guard received several calls on Sunday about the vessel in distress, and that the information initially relayed to the Coast Guard was that the vessel was taking in water off Mustique.

He said that boat was travelling from Canouan, in the southern Grenadines, to Mustique, a northern Grenadine island.

Ragguette said that the Coast Guard did not receive any co-ordinates, but immediately activated its search and rescue protocols.

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LIAT averts pilots industrial action - agrees to begin paying pilot’s timely and outstanding salaries

LIAT averts pilots industrial action – agrees to begin paying pilot’s timely and outstanding salaries

Following years of struggle for pay and back-pay and general working conditions the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) in a release dated May 21, 2017 stopped short of expressing a threat of industrial action. “As a result of LIAT’s actions and the volatility of this situation, LIALPA would like to once again make a final appeal to LIAT to honour its agreement with the pilots by June 1st, 2017. Failure to do so would leave the Association with no other choice but to act, so as to protect the interest and rights of its membership.”

A brief background to the current situation was stated in the earlier release. It read: “Since late 2012, the Association has engaged LIAT in negotiations for a new salary structure for its ATR-72 aircraft (not covered under the current MOA) and general salary increases. After years of stalling and legal maneuvering by LIAT, including the Company filing legal action in both the High and Industrial Courts, the Association in the spirit of fostering and maintaining a good relationship with LIAT accepted the Company’s salary package offer in January 2017…To date LIAT has not honoured this agreement with LIALPA and has even gone so far as to reject our Attorney’s suggestion, that a Consent Order be obtained in the Industrial Court to formalize the salary agreement (which covers the years 2012-2017) thus paving the way for its implementation.”

The pilots continually expressed the view “that LIAT continues to act in bad faith…evident by the Company’s insistence to unilaterally impose, yet another salary deferral program on the pilots even though the Association has publicly objected and rejected this program.”

The pilots aslo referred to their position made, “very pellucid to the Board of Directors and Shareholders at a widely-publicized meeting held in Barbados on April 4th 2017,” as management “also continues to ignore the fact that the Association has placed this matter before the Industrial Court for determination.”

However, reports eventual developments through today, such action had been threatened on Wednesday, but averted. The Association through its president Captain Carl Burke on Wednesday, had announced planned action, ‘which will take the form of sit-ins at various airports and possible picketing, may run for at least four days.’

Immediately, following the ultimatum threat of serious action, which gave the management until midnight on Wednesday to pay outstanding

salaries, Antigua and Barbuda’s Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin called an emergency meeting with president of the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIAPPA) Captain Carl Burke , members of the airline’s management team and others.

Late Wednesday night, confirmed by Captain Burke, LIAT said discussions were cordial and “the management and pilots have reached a mutually amicable decision on outstanding issues.”

The captain and president of the LIAPPA said agreement was made by LIAT to begin payment as promised recently especially regarding the ATR-72 aircraft, continuing with a structured means of meeting the outstanding payments and regular payments of salaries.

Meanwhile, the pilots’ association maintains that management change is absolutely necessary as it calls that “LIAT would change its present course,” and of course, “respect the basic principles of industrial relations and collective bargaining.”

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JDF Coast Guard

Search suspended for missing NY family and pilot after plane goes missing near The Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas, May 19, CMC – The search for four people who went missing after the plane in which they were traveling disappeared off the coast of the island Eleuthera, has been suspended.

The search, conducted by the United States Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force was suspended late Thursday.

Missing are Jennifer Blumin, 40, from New York City,Nathan Ulrich, 52, from Lee, New Hampshire, and Blumin’s 3-year-old and 4-year-old sons.

JDF Coast Guard“This was a swift and significant loss and its impact has reverberated through everyone that participated in the search,”said Christopher Eddy, search and rescue mission coordinator. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the families involved.”

The search was conducted for  75 hours covering more than11,140 square miles.

The New York family and Ulrich went missing when shortly after 2:10 pm (local time) Miami Air Traffic Control lost radar and radio contact from of a MU-2B airplane approximately 37 miles east of Eleuthera.

Communication was reported to be lost at 24,000 feet with a speed of 300 knots.

The airplane departed Borinquen, Puerto Rico, at approximately11 a.m.Monday en route to Titusville, Florida.

On Tuesday afternoon,  a Coast Guard helicopter crew located a fuel sheen and a debris field 15 miles east of Eleuthera.

The helicopter crew was able to lower a rescue swimmer and retrieve some of the debris to transfer ashore for identification.

Some airplane components recovered from the debris were confirmed to be from an MU-2B airplane.

A National Transportation Safety Board accident investigator has been assigned to this case to determine the probable cause of this accident.

Meanwhile, the coast guard suspended another search on Thursday. This was for a a woman  – Isabella Hellman, 41, of Delray Beach in Florida, who went missing 30miles west of Cay Sal.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Ms. Hellman in this difficult time,” said Capt. Aldante Vinciguerra, chief of response for the Coast Guard Seventh District. “Suspending a search is never an easy call to make and was made with deep consideration in this tragic case.”

On Monday the coast guard was notified that the owner of a 37 foot catamaran “Surf into Summer”  Lewis Bennett said he was abandoning his vessel and didn’t know where his wife, Hellman, was.

Response crews arrived on scene and rescued Bennett from a life raft , there was also no sign of his wife

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St. Helena first passenger flight landing

HISTORIC ARRIVAL OF CHARTER FLIGHT

History was made on St Helena today, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, when a charter plane carrying 60 passengers landed at St Helena Airport at 1.55 p.m.

St. Helena first passenger flight landing

Air Partner, a commercial organisation that sources charter flights around the world, had been contracted to source an aircraft to transport from Cape Town to St Helena passengers affected by the cancellation of RMS voyages 255 and 256. Air Partner then entered into an agreement with SA Airlink to carry out the charter flight.

 SA Airlink successfully carried out the flight operation today using a British Aerospace 146 Avro RJ85 aircraft.  Among the 60 passengers onboard today’s incoming flight were HE Governor Lisa Phillips and a young St Helenian baby born in Cape Town.

Crowds of family members, friends and Island residents gathered at the Airport to witness the arrival. Emotions were high and many people expressed that they were excited but emotional about today’s flight.

The aircraft approached St Helena Airport from the north before smoothly touching down on Runway 20. Passengers disembarking the aircraft were met by a packed Arrivals Hall, all eager to welcome everyone to St Helena.

Following a quick turnaround, the aircraft departed at 3.20pm with 48 passengers onboard. The aircraft is travelling to Cape Town via Windhoek in South Africa.

Councillor Derek Thomas said today:

“What a great day for St Helena to receive our first flight of passengers, and a really good turnout from the people.

“Over the past year there have been many disappointments for air access but despite this our people have been patient while waiting for a successful outcome. The arrival of the aircraft today is one step nearer to commercial use of our Airport and has enabled those people who were delayed in Cape Town to return home safely.

“Thank you to Air Partner, SA Airlink, Janet and the Air Access Office team, Airport staff led by Gwyneth, Kedell our SHG UK Representative and Niall from ESH and [Dr Akeem Ali] our new Health Director who provided tremendous support to our Saints stuck in Cape Town. To all staff in SHG for all their hard work for organising the flight which was a real success and a really successful day.”

Accountable Manager and Head of Operations at St Helena Airport, Gwyneth Howell, added:

“The team at St Helena Airport did exceptionally well today and we should be really proud of them, everything went as well as we had hoped. There will be lessons learnt and we will always strive to improve but to everyone, from SHG to SA Airlink to Air Partner and the Airport team, I think we all did exceptionally well.”

For more photos from today please visit the SHG Facebook and Twitter accounts via the below links:

#StHelena #StHelenaAirport #Making History

https://www.facebook.com/StHelenaGovt/

https://twitter.com/StHelenaGovt

SHG

3 May 2017

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kick em jenny

Increased activities at Kick ’em Jenny volcano

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, May 1, CMC – Disaster officials in Grenada said that the region’s only submarine volcano, Kick ‘em Jenny, showed “continuous activity” on Monday with at least “43 mostly low magnitudes volcanic earthquakes” over an 18 hour period.

A statement from the National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA) noted that the agency is continuing to collaborate with the Seismic Research Centre (SRC), at the St. Augustine campus University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad and Tobago to monitor activities at the Kick ’em Jenny under water volcano.

NaDMA said it was “advised of continuous activities” on Monday and according to the fourth advisory from the SRC/UWI “during the period 5:45 p.m. on 30th April to10:41 a.m. on 1st May, the activity rate has remained virtually the same with 43 mostly low magnitudes -in the range 1.5-2.3 – volcanic earthquakes associated with this unrest episode at the Kick-’em-Jenny volcano.

“There were a few larger events with the largest at magnitude 3.0. UWI/SRC will continue to monitor and update NaDMA as the activity warrants.”

kick em jenny
Kick ’em jenny

On Sunday, the UWI/SRC recorded a high amplitude signal, lasting about 25 seconds, on one of the Grenada stations.  The signal was also recorded on a station in Montserrat.

“This signal follows an increase in the number of background events associated with the Kick-‘em-Jenny volcano,” NaDMA said, confirming reports that persons in the St. Patrick’s area have reported feeling tremors.”

Kick ’em Jenny is an active submarine volcano or seamount on the Caribbean Sea floor, located 8 km (5 mi) north of the island of Grenada and about 8 km (5 mi) west of Ronde Island in the Grenadines.

The volcano has erupted on at least 12 occasions between 1939 and 2001. A submersible survey in 2003 detected a crater with active fumaroles releasing cold and hot gas bubble. Signs of elevated seismicity began July 11, 2015, and on July 23 a strong continuous signal was recorded.

NaDMA said that the alert level remains “YELLOW” and that means that “vessels should observe a 1.5 km/0.93 mile exclusion zone.

“However, as a precautionary measure, the marine community is advised to continue observing the secondary exclusion zone of 5 km/3.1 miles. The SRC has advised that heightened alert is
necessary for the exclusion zone.”

NaDMA is also advising the general population that the official advisories on this matter, and all other disaster related matters will come directly from the agency and urged also “the responsible use of social
media.

“The population can rest assured that SRC continues to monitor the system and NaDMA will continue to liaise with SRC and provide updates,” NaDMA added.

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MV-Super-Fast-Galicia2

Search underway for new inter-island cargo ferry

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr. 8, CMC – Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says he should have some definitive word concerning the replacement vessel for the Galicia – a ferry that is used to transport cargo between Trinidad and Tobago.

MV-Super-Fast-Galicia2This follows a recent announcement from Inter-Continental Shipping Ltd, the owners of the ferry, that the vessel would end operations on the domestic sea brief on April 18.

According to the Trinidad Newsday, the Galicia will continue its sailings to and from Tobago over the Easter weekend, but Sinanan stressed that the short term period of two months between the time the Galicia ceases operations and closure of a tender to acquire a replacement vessel, is the period which must be immediately addressed .

He said no company is being “blacklisted” from participating in the tender and he hopes Inter-Continental would participate.

Pointing to concerns raised by the Tobago Chamber of Commerce about options to replace the Galicia, the Transport Minister said this was not a simple matter ,

He is quoted as saying that acquiring a vessel to operate on the sea bridge is different from acquiring a new motor vehicle from a automobile dealership because the requirements are far different.

Reiterating this was a situation, which should never have happened in the first place, Sinanan explained that “a combination” of vessels may have to be used in the short term, until a proper replacement is acquired .

Super Fast Galicia has been operating in the twin island republic since May 2014.

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LIATPlane

LIAT meeting ends with agreement on payment of salaries

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – (Adapted) – Only three days after the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) on April 2, 2017 issued a press release in which it called for the removal of the current LIAT management, shareholder governments of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, Tuesday night ended talks with regional unions representing employees with an agreement to ensure that salaries are to be paid on time and averting possible industrial action.

The Association claimed it, “unfortunately has no other choice but to call on the Shareholder Governments to remove the current LIAT management.”

The meeting discussed a move by the Antigua-based carrier to implement a late payment schedule to its employees that is likely to continue for the next five months.

But St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is chairman of the shareholder governments, told reporters that a settlement had been reached after the unions had threatened industrial action if the airline had proceeded with the deferrals.

“I think that instructions have gone to the bank for the payments, so depends on which bank you are in, some persons would get paid tomorrow or the next day,” he told reporters, noting however that there was no guarantee that the airline would not be late with salaries again soon.

Gonsalves Bdos
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves leaving the Hilton Barbados following the meeting

“The management is not saying that they would be in a position on each occasion over the next three months to pay precisely on time; there may be a couple of days deferral,” Gonsalves said.

Earlier this month, the airline’s chief executive officer, Julie Reifer-Jones, saying that “LIAT’s management sincerely apologises for any disruption to the travel plans of our valued passengers at this time.

“We remain committed to working with our employees to resolve the issues currently impacting the delivery of our service to the Caribbean”.

Last month, the airline sent a letter to the chair of the Standing Regional Consultative Council of Trade Unions within the LIAT System (SRCCTULS), David Massiah, indicating that the airline’s major shareholders were willing to meet with a delegation from the unions “to have a structured discussion on the current financial position of LIAT, the industrial climate and the future of the airline”.

In a March 30 email to the airline’s staff, Reifer-Jones said that LIAT “is going through a difficult financial situation and has implemented a schedule of delays for salaries for all employees over the next five months.”

She said the financial delays are affecting all airline employees, including the executive team.

Reifer-Jones said the airline was proposing a five-month period as it expects that the situation should improve by the summer months.

Gonsalves said the issue of salaries was an important one, but there were “several practical questions” that needed to be addressed, “which are of concern to the staff and the travelling public by extension, that we hope immediately to be addressed over the medium term”.

He also revealed that plans had been drafted for the establishment of a technical committee to formulate a medium term development plan for the struggling airline.

‘What we decided on the way forward is that I would liaise with the president of the Caribbean Development Bank [CDB], who would name someone to draw up terms of reference for a technical committee to study a series of issue affecting operations of LIAT.

“This would be fed into a task force appointed by the shareholders and that task force would hold consultations with all of the relevant stakeholders,” Gonsalves said.

“Hopefully we can put together these committees in the week after Easter Monday and there is an outside time of three months for all of this technical and consultative work to be done and the report to be presented to the shareholders,” he told reporters.

Gonsalves said that the LIAT management would not be resting on their laurels while the consultative work was being completed, as they have a number of issues pertaining to flight operations and the company’s day-to-day operations to address.

Last weekend, LIALPA had called on the shareholder governments to dismiss the airline’s management. But Gonsalves did not address this matter in any detail, limiting his comments to an acknowledgement that those concerns were raised “in robust language”.

The pilots complained:

♦ The aircraft fleet has decreased from 18 to 10. Lack of adequate crew.

♦ The Head of Flight Operations’ incompetence was exposed as he stood idly and did nothing to address the mass departure of 19 experienced Pilots, after the Airline just spent over 100 thousand dollars to train each pilot. Now the attention is on hiring new inexperienced pilots.

♦ Loss of 10 million dollars in hangar fire due to records not being properly backed up off site

♦ Loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars for removing a flight route from Grenada schedule

♦ Loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in routes being taken over by competitors

“The employees raised a number of issues relating to decisions, which if the employees are correct about those matters, they would require immediate corrective action,” he told reporters.

LIAT is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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