Editorial: The days of our economic lives

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The response to our political satire poking fun at the soap-opera-like drama surrounding the prospective candidacies of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party hopefuls in the St. John’s Rural East constituency was quite heartening. Seems, many of the readers enjoyed the allusion to popcorn and soda as well as the intrigue, back-stabbing, betrayal and one-upmanship. No matter which party one favours, there can be no denying that the smoky backroom manoeuvrings in Rural East are the stuff of a cheap and tawdry soap opera. Think great train-wreck theatre. Of course, ‘great’ as in the public is unable to avert its eyes much as the public will watch a bad car accident or “Two Woman Cussin’ On Greenbay Hill.” Always good for much levity are the days of our political lives!
What’s not so funny however are the days of our economic lives! And please, no popcorn and soda here! After all, when there is seemingly regular industrial action by workers all over Antigua and Barbuda over poor working conditions, solidarity over unfair dismissals or poor treatment by management, and yes, non-receipt of wages, then popcorn and soda become quite unpalatable. It is no laughing matter! This year alone, we have seen much industrial action by a number of workers, and this would seem to suggest that working conditions in some establishments here in Antigua and Barbuda leave something to be desired. For example, there was the industrial action taken by the St. John’s Development workers this past summer. Then there was the action by some of the West Indies Oil Company workers as well as those at the Burma Quarry. Not to mention the Public Work workers who took strike action, as did the workers at the Port Authority. Throw in the Sealy workers as well as the workers at Clareview and the Fiennes Institute, and it is not a pretty picture. Oh, and let us not forget the workers at LIAT! Seems, they are always on strike, or threatening to strike.
Of course, there are two important lessons to be gleaned from the frequent resort to industrial action by our workers. Firstly, we suggest that management should do more to keep its compact with the people and ante up “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” After all, “The workman is worthy of his hire.” It is extremely frustrating that in these tough economic times, and make no mistake, these are indeed tough economic times, never mind the happy talk, workers having to wait weeks and sometimes months for wages.  And when matters come to a head, and wages are finally paid, the amounts are only a part of the arrears owed. This is hardly good enough! Our workers deserve better!
On the other hand, the fact that workers are willing to take industrial action over their remuneration, or lack thereof, and better working conditions, and in solidarity with their colleagues, speaks to an informed workforce and robust union representation. And this is a good thing. We have come too far, and workers have fought too hard, for public and private management to even think of shortchanging the workers in any way. In that spirit, we are calling on the authorities over at the Fiennes Institute to pay the workers the rest of the money that is owed them, as a matter of urgency. We also call on other bodies that are holding out on their workers to do the same. The Yuletide season is upon us. And it should be one of joy and gladness, not aggravation and stress! Never mind that many folks are one or two paychecks removed from that very same aforementioned Fiennes Institute! Remember, we can only become an ‘economic powerhouse,’ if our workers are empowered!

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