Approximately 50 workers at the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Services, ABS Radio and Television, resorted to a more aggressive form of protest on Thursday, marching from the headquarters of
the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) to the offices of the
state-owned media entity on Cross Street, as they pressed for better working conditions and outstanding overtime pay.
The turnout on Thursday was also much larger than when the workers protested for the same issues last December.
The latest round of industrial action was sparked by a letter that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information reportedly sent to about 30 workers, informing them that they would not be paid for seven days in December 2018 — the days on which the workers took the initial protest action.
The decision to resume industrial action also stemmed from a meeting with the Labour Commissioner on Wednesday, which was held to discuss the said letter and, from the look of things, no resolution was reached.
Shop Steward Kerrio Adams told our newsroom yesterday that staff from ABS Radio and Television and those from the Gate Facility in Coolidge met at the union’s office on North Street and after a meeting with union officials they proceeded to picket the company’s offices.
“It is going to be more visible than the last time, the last time we just stood outside the building peacefully, but this time, we are going to be a bit more vocal to bring awareness to the situation at ABS,” Adams said.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Melford Nicholas stated that he has instructed the Permanent Secretary within the ministry to seek the intervention of the Labour Commissioner for the second time in recent months as they attempt to settle unresolved matters with members of staff.
“It is safe to say there has been no closing of the gap after the involvement of the Assistant Labour Commissioner a month and a half ago. There is still some considerable distance between where the employees are and where the management is and it is a normal process,” Nicholas said.
The minister was also asked about the rationale behind the letter that was penned by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information.
The letters to staff about the non-payment were served on them despite an agreement that employees who participated in
the December industrial action would suffer no reprisals.
In his response, Nicholas stated that, “It’s not a penalty, it’s a consequence. If you have determined that you are going to withhold your labour, you are not to be paid.”