Editorial: Something stinks!

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The news came as quite a shock to a number of Antiguans and Barbudans. The employees at the government mouthpiece, the state-owned media service, are on strike! Gasp! Seemed they were good and fed up with the conditions under which they were being asked to work, their long overdue overtime pay and an alleged rift between them and management. We here at NEWSCO (parent company of the New Observer radio and THE DAILY OBSERVER) certainly wish our fellow journalists and others in the industry at that media house, a speedy and satisfactory resolution to their protest action. After all, they have an important role to play in the dissemination of news and information.
It is rather interesting that the strike action took place on the same day as the Throne Speech, and it is not difficult to imagine the reason why. The workers were intent on inflicting as much hurt as possible on management while drawing attention to their plight. Workers taking industrial action usually seek to exert as much leverage as possible by taking same at a time when there will be significant inconvenience and disruption. Of course, management was able to put together a skeleton crew made up of junior interns and senior staff to provide some semblance of news coverage.
Now, while we sympathise with the ABS strikers – our brothers and sisters in the media fraternity, it is not lost on us that what we are seeing unfold at this most important arm of the government, is symptomatic of a deep problem here in our bit of paradise. Well, we are not sure that the word ‘paradise’ applies, because, notwithstanding the flowery pronouncements as to how well the so-called “economic powerhouse” is doing; never mind the happy talk and the delusional backpatting, all’s not well. Something stinks in the state of Denmark! And “it stinketh up to high heaven!” (A favorite expression of the late Tim Hector)
When workers are treated like garbage and their concerns are dismissed; when they are scheduled to work overtime and the remuneration is not forthcoming; when they are forced to work in leaky offices with mold and mildew; when bathroom and other necessary facilities are less than satisfactory, and when the chief offenders are the government and government statutory bodies, then the aforementioned stink is all the more offensive! Recent industrial action at the General Post Office, the State Insurance Corporation, the National Solid Waste, and now, the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service speak to that which is indefensible and odious.
Meanwhile, it is with more than a hint of irony that we note that while the good minister of information was quite busy ranting and raving and obsessing over NEWSCO, the media entity under his purview was plagued with serious problems. Talk about misguided zeal! Talk about concern for the mote in thy brother’s eye, while blithely ignoring the beam in thine own! And yes, while there were a number of persons in high places weighing in and holding forth and making accusations and airing the dirty laundry of many businesses in our fair state, the dirty laundry of those persons was sorely in need of a good wash! Pass the detergent!
We derive no pleasure from the unfortunate situation in which the ABS workers find themselves. After all, we remain firmly in the corner of workers here in Antigua and Barbuda. We certainly hope that the good minister of information will show up post-haste to meet with the disgruntled ABS workers and make good on the many promises made at their August 2018 meeting! It would be a sweet-smelling savor, albeit more than a tad late!

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