Workers at the Antigua Broadcasting Service (ABS) have decided, at a meeting held yesterday, that they will be embarking on some form of industrial action later this week.
ABS employee and spokesperson Khalid Shabazz said that the resolution was arrived at during the meeting with their bargaining agent, the Antigua Trades & Labour Union (ATLU), and that between today and tomorrow, the staff will decide on what form of industrial action they would take.
“We’re going to decide that by tomorrow or by the latest Wednesday,” he said, and that the action would definitely be staged this week.
Shabazz said that employees’ meeting with the ATLU was in response to what they felt was a refusal by the Permanent Secretary responsible for ABS to meet with them to discuss the issues they faced.
He said, “A letter was sent to the Permanent Secretary on (February) 3rd. She responded to us on the 9th indicating that she didn’t deem it necessary to meet with us.
“We wrote to the minister, and proposed two dates, Tuesday (February) 23rd and Wednesday the 24th – we did not get to meet. We were awaiting a response from the minister’s office and they did not get back to us.”
According to Shabazz, a reply has not yet been received from the Minister of Information, Melford Nicholas and so the workers met today to decide their next move. “Today we decided that after all that – we have to take some action,” he said.
However, when contacted, Nicholas told OBSERVER media that, “The PS never refused to meet with staff … The union has escalated these matters.
“The matter was raised at my level to indicate that they could not get a meeting with the PS. I consulted the PS and was satisfied that it was not so,” Nicholas said.
He went on to say that he offered to meet with the ATLU last Friday, but that Ralph Potter, the Industrial Relations Officer with the union, was unable to attend.
“Mr Potter, for internal communication reasons in the ATLU, could not make it to the meeting,” Nicholas charged.
When asked about the conditions at the ABS building, Nicholas replied, “We have addressed those matters internally …T hese matters have the full attention of my ministry and have my full attention.”
Workers at ABS have a number of longstanding issues with the working conditions and the management at the national broadcasting service. According to Shabazz, “Chief among the issues is the removal of the general manager.”
Shabazz said other issues include mould in the newsroom, a lack of equipment, and outstanding overtime payment.