Saturday, December 24, 2011

Michael Blackburn resigns as head of LIAT pilots union

Captain Michael Blackburn said he does not believe his resignation would negatively affect negotiations between LIAPA and the airline management.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua, December 23, 2011 – Captain Michael Blackburn has resigned as Chairman of the Leeward Islands Pilots Association (LIALPA) as he prepares to file a lawsuit against regional carrier LIAT challenging his summary dismissal earlier this month.

Captain Blackburn said his resignation Thursday would prevent possible conflict of interest since he may have to call on association members to aid his defense.
The senior pilot said he will file the challenge by the first week in January, the latest.

He is also aiming to clear his name following allegations he compromised flight safety during a trip to St Lucia.

The former union boss denied being pressured into making the decision and expressed full confidence in the current LIALPA leadership.

“We have a very effective executive council remaining in office and a new chairman would be elected within 60 days. There is no amount of persuasion by members who support me fully that could make me to stay on,” he said.

“LIAT has made some allegations regarding my professional conduct recently and I have to exonerate myself and I would take whatever steps I have to, to do it. That would place me in a compromising position because the position of chairman of the association is very powerful so that I would be in a position to exercise undue leverage or the appearance thereof, which is equally important to me and therefore I have no choice but to step down.”

The former chairman stated he does not believe his resignation will negatively affect the position of LIAPA, which along with other unions are involved in an industrial dispute with the management of the Antigua-based airline.

“It might even strengthen the resolve of guys who will realise they can operate without me,” he said of his resignation.

“If the company is under the belief that because I’m not there they can do whatever they would like or they can take advantage of the situation, then the Caribbean people would pay a serious price.”

The trade unionist denied reports of serious disunity within the association, saying “there is no big division.”

He also urged LIALPA to proceed with changes to the constitution to ensure there is collective leadership rather than centralized power for the chairman.
Captain Blackburn was employed with LIAT for 34 years, and served 32 of them on the LIALPA executive.

His sacking led to days of industrial action by pilots, which left thousands of regional travelers stranded.

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