ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda; Monday, January 6, 2020 (CMC) – The head of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), Captain Patterson Thompson, has welcomed the appointment of former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, as the new Chairman of the financially-strapped airline, but says he also wants him to pay more attention to the unions representing workers.
“I hope he will give all the unions… a fair hearing, listen to them and understand the issues, from both sides,” said Thompson.
“There are always three sides to any story. So he has to hear all three sides and, I hope, former Prime Minister Arthur does that,” Thompson told listeners to Observer Radio, here, saying his organisation has not been officially made aware of Arthur’s appointment to the post.
Last weekend, Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, said Arthur would replace Jean Holder, as the new Chairman of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.
“You would recognise there will be a new Chairman. In fact, former Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, he will take over as the new Chairman of LIAT,” Browne said, adding “I don’t think there could be any better candidate.”
Arthur will replace his fellow Barbadian, Holder, who retired, late last year, after being in the post for 16 years.
Thompson described Arthur’s appointment “as an interesting one”, noting “Owen Arthur is a very successful prime minister of Barbados…after 14 years, he did very well, and he is a regionalist”.
“He believes in the region. I think that it is an interesting pick, and he is a person that can sit down in any prime minister’s office and relate to them, having been a prime minister himself, and he should be able to expound the importance of a regional carrier,” he said.
He also expressed the hope that Arthur would also be a person, who would further debate the importance of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services, across the 15-member grouping.
Thompson added that all the stakeholders should not expect Arthur to act as a “magician”, and elaborated that “I am hoping, when he comes in, he does not drink the proverbial Kool-Aid …and give all the unions .. a fair hearing”.
Speaking on his radio station, over the weekend, Browne said that he believes that Arthur is the right person for the job, given his history of fighting for the Antigua-based airline, whose major shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.
“Owen Arthur would have spent a large amount of his prime ministerial equity ensuring the survival of LIAT, and now that it is at the crossroads again, I think that Owen is the right person to lead LIAT out of these difficulties,” Browne said, noting that there will also be personnel and other changes at the Antigua-based airline.
“We have come to a consensus on the way forward, so a lot of the differences that existed we’ve been able to resolve them and, I believe, LIAT has a very bright future ahead of it,” Browne said, explaining that LIAT will be capitalised with the US$15 million loan Antigua and Barbuda obtained from the ALBA Bank, as well as five million from Dominica.
Browne said that the plan is to raise at least US$30 million to recapitalise the airline.