By Theresa Goodwin
A senior trade union official is reiterating calls for the enactment of laws to ensure that workers will receive severance and other entitlements due to them in the event a company is forced to close.
Samuel James, the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union (ABFTU) said until this is done, thousands of workers in Antigua and Barbuda will continue to lose their years of service and other benefits.
“The lawmakers of Antigua and Barbuda have to take the bull by the horns to ensure that stringent laws are put in place to protect employees. It is heartbreaking; far too much employees in the country have lost all their benefits after companies go under and many business owners leaving the island and not returning,” James said.
“Workers now need to get up and demand of their representatives, informing them that their job is to protect by introducing the necessary laws,” he added.
The ABFTU is the bargaining agent for nine former employees of Melinis Restaurant in Jolly Harbour. The workers, some of whom worked at the company for more than 15 years, are claiming over $300,000 in severance, salaries and vacation payments.
In March, the employees were informed that the company was closing temporarily, due to the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown. They however, staged a protest in October after the management of the company failed to reach out to them to provide an update about their employment status.
They even went as far as to write to Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene, asking for his intervention to prevent the British owner, Mark Tutten, from leaving Antigua and Barbuda.
Samuel, however, told our newsroom that, based on information he had gathered, the businessman departed the island weeks ahead of the protest.
He said this now makes it difficult for the workers to get the monies that are owed to them.