ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Thursday March 21, 2013 – LIAT’s December 5, 2011, termination of Captain Michael Blackburn from its employ amounted to unfair dismissal, according to the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Department.
Acting Labour Commissioner Pascal Kentish has stated in the conciliation report that the former chairman of the Leeward Islands Pilots Association (LIALPA) was dismissed unfairly because the company failed to follow the disciplinary provisions of the collective agreement.
Kentish has recommended that Blackburn be paid severance pay at the rate of one month’s pay for each year of service, notice pay, vacation earned but not paid at the time of termination, and six months compensation for unfair dismissal in addition to wages earned but not paid.
Blackburn, worked as a LIAT pilot for more than 33 years. According to the Observer newspaper, Blackburn was fired after making certain comments on Observer Radio’s Big Issues programme in 2011, which the management said threatened the airline’s existence.
At the time, LIAT’s Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown said Blackburn was fired after long consideration.
Brown said Blackburn was summarily dismissed because the company “felt that Captain Blackburn’s statements with regard to the safety standards of the airline and the capability of its management were a deliberate attempt to bring the company into public disrepute.”
He said these statements had received widespread publicity throughout the region and the world, and painted “an unfair and distorted picture of LIAT’s operations” and brought the safety and reliability of the airline into question.