ABS workers pressured to cease industrial action

ABS staff are demanding outstanding overtime and holiday payments they claim date back to 2015 (Observer photos)
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By Makeda Antonio

The fight for outstanding payments by at least a dozen staff at the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Services (ABS) continues despite recent developments forcing them to return to work.

Since 2015, ABS employees have engaged in industrial action, claiming that they are owed overtime and holiday pay.

The matter is currently before the Industrial Court. However, the workers took to the streets outside the ABS building last week due to a major shift in the case.

Shop Steward, Kerrio Adams, told Observer that Attorney General (AG) Steadroy Benjamin filed an appeal to remove the panel of judges dealing with the case due to a perceived bias towards the workers.

Adams indicated that the industrial action would continue until the AG withdraws his appeal and advocates for the workers who simply want the outstanding compensation that they have worked for.

In more recent developments, Observer obtained a letter written by AG Benjamin to Adams and ABS General Manager, Erna-Mae Brathwaite, putting the workers on notice that they are to return to the job in accordance with Section Four, Sub-sections One and Two of the Essential Services Act (2008).

The Act stipulates that “no industrial action shall commence, or if commenced, shall be discontinued in a trade dispute in an essential service, unless it is subject to an order issued in sub-section Two.”

Subsection Two reads, “The Minister may, in the exercise of his discretion, or after consultation with, or after hearing submissions from the affected trade union or employment organisation, issue an order determining that a particular trade dispute in an essential service is not a major dispute.”

The Antigua Trades and Labour Union’s (AT&LU’s) Ralph Potter has been representing the affected employees. He has claimed that the matter before the courts is subject to interference from top officials.

“Some person or persons in the management of the Ministry of Information and ABS Radio, even at this stage are still tampering with the documents that they are supposed to provide to assist in the resolution of the process,” Potter contended on Observer radio’s, Snakepit programme, this past Saturday.

Potter also argued that it is this type of attitude towards the workers that caused them to carry the Ministry of Information along with the management of ABS to court in the first place.

“We believe that there is bad faith being demonstrated by the officials in the Ministry of Information and ABS Radio. It is that belief that led to us taking the decision that we took,” he said.

Efforts to reach the Attorney General and Minister of Labour, Steadroy Benjamin, for comment on the claims proved futile up to press time.

However, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas indicated that he would provide a response on the issue at a later time.

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