ABWU plans lawsuit if workers are not paid holiday pay on December 25

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The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) says it will be filing a legal challenge if its members do not receive holiday pay for work done on December 25th.

“We feel very strongly that individuals who work on Christmas Day, meaning the 25th of December should be paid for a public holiday,” said Deputy General Secretary Chester Hughes.

Earlier this week the Labour Commissioner announced that December 25th and December 26th would be treated as normal working days.

But Hughes is insisting that Christmas Day was not removed as a common-law holiday when changes were made to the Public Holiday Act in 2019.

Due to changes to the law, Christmas Day which falls on a Saturday this year will be observed on Monday, December 27th. Likewise, Boxing Day Sunday, December 26th, will be recognized this coming Tuesday.

“We have alerted the Labour Department of our position, we have had conversation with the Minister of Labour on this position, and he has accepted that he is going to concur with the Labour Commissioner’s position,” Hughes told Observer.

It is not the first time that such a situation has come up following changes in the Public Holidays Act in 2019.

Last year, Labour Minister Steadroy Benjamin advised business owners that they would have to pay employees for two Boxing Days.

In 2020, Boxing Day fell on a Saturday. And while the Public Holidays Act Cap. 354 speaks to what should be done when Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, it omitted to address how it would be treated if it fell on a Saturday.

Benjamin said then, that the matter is subject to interpretation and ordered business to pay out for the date on which Boxing Day fell and the legal holiday day.

He had promised to amend the law to make certain that in the future this does not occur and to have the Industrial Court interpret the situation.

However, it is unclear if that was ever done.

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