By Theresa Goodwin
The Attorney General’s office has applied to the Industrial Court requesting the dismissal of a legal matter between employees and management at the Antigua Port Authority, days ahead of the official hearing.
This was confirmed by the workers’ bargaining agent, the Antigua Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU)
The Industrial Court was expected to determine whether or not port workers were entitled to protest over unpaid annual bonuses in a trial that was scheduled for today.
Deputy General Secretary of the ABWU, Chester Hughes, said yesterday that the union received a “notice of discontinuance” over a week ago.
“On January 7, we were served with papers from the Attorney General’s office, which was stamped and filed by the court, with a notice of discontinuance of the matter on their part,” Hughes said.
He further explained that the union has now decided to refer the matter to the Labour Department for conciliation.
Hughes claimed the legal action was filed to prevent the workers from taking industrial action in December which is one of the port’s busiest times of year.
“We find it disingenuous, the behaviour of the Attorney General’s Office. They took us to court, had the matter held up in court, then at the end of the season when all is well they withdrew the matter saying they no longer wish to continue with it,” Hughes said.
He maintains the workers have a legitimate claim and the union has started the process to have the matter resolved in an amicable way.
Last December, the union, acting on behalf of port workers, issued a notice of industrial action if they were not paid their annual bonus as outlined in an existing collective agreement.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne had argued that the request was unreasonable as revenue collection at the port was hampered by the Covid-19 virus.
Hughes told Observer then that the union also held dialogue with PM Browne on December 21 in hopes of resolving the matter. However, they were caught off guard days later when they received a notice from the Attorney General’s office that the matter had been filed in the Industrial Court.
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