Barbuda Council workers do not qualify for backpay, says Hurst

Lionel “Max” Hurst (OBSERVER media photo)

Even as members of the Barbuda Council await written communication from the government regarding backpay for workers on the sister island, government’s chief of staff Lionel Max Hurst is reaffirming the position that Barbudans are not eligible.

Hurst explained in an interview yesterday that the monies paid to public sector workers were as a result of their unions bargaining with the government for pay increases to which the government agreed but never paid, and the Barbuda Council workers were not part of that process.

“When it is time to pay backpay, it is the unionised workers that are entitled to receive the monies that have been owed to them,” Hurst said. He later added that Council workers are not paid by the government, citing that a sum of money is sent to Barbuda and the Council determines how it is to be spent.

The response from the government official came after Barbuda Senator Fabian Jones told the Senate that the Council was awaiting official notification from the Gaston Browne administration as to why its workers are ineligible.

“If you look in the estimates for the Barbuda Council, you will see on every page where you have the different heads of department of the Council there is an allocation there for arrears and salaries. These arrears have been paid over the years from the central treasury. It is ironic that now there is backpay that the Council workers are being told there is nothing forthem,” Jones said during his contribution to the budget debate.

The Member of Parliament for Barbuda, Trevor Walker, was the first to raise the concern with the government. Weeks ago, Walker said he was informed verbally by the Ministry of Finance that Barbudans did not qualify for backpay and he demanded a written explanation. Jones said he is hopeful that the matter will be addressed after passage of the 2019 Budget