Ex-workers picket Antigua Masonry Products to demand it honours court ruling

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Former security guards and their union rep picketed Antigua Masonry Products yesterday to demand outstanding payments (Photos by Theresa Goodwin)
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Past employees of Antigua Masonry Products (AMP) picketed the Bendals-based business yesterday in an attempt to get their former bosses to honour an Industrial Court ruling recently handed down in their favour.

The four workers, who once performed security duties at the aggregates company, claimed that they were wrongfully dismissed seven years ago, and thereafter AMP contracted a private security firm to perform their duties.

The matter was subsequently taken to the Industrial Court which ruled in the workers’ favour on March 18.

However, AMP has decided to appeal the court’s decision. A spokesman for the company confirmed that to Observer but declined to comment further.

The Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union has been representing the workers’ interest and the union’s President Samuel James explained the matter further.

“The court found that the employees were unfairly dismissed, that the employer’s actions were unreasonable and that the employees – in keeping with the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code and the collective bargaining agreement in place at the time – were entitled to be paid premium rate and public holiday rate,” James told Observer on site yesterday.

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The union official also noted the reluctance of AMP’s management to pay the workers what is due to them while using its resources to challenge the judgement instead. He believes that the appeal is solely meant to frustrate the former security guards.

“The company was not paying those rates in keeping with the law, so the court awarded compensation for those losses over a period of six years which is actually less than the period of employment for four of the five employees and, my goodness, the judgment is so basic in terms of protecting the rights that are enshrined,” James told Observer.

“They have to stop this bad-minded behaviour and they have to understand that much of their wealth was obtained by the hard work and sweat of workers in this country.

“The government of Antigua and Barbuda need to stand in solidarity with these workers and not in solidarity with the monied interests,” he lamented on behalf of the aggrieved workers.

Two of the picketers shared the reason why they decided to stage the demonstration against the company yesterday.

One woman said the workers simply want the compensation to which they are entitled.

“We have worked a 12-hour shift for flat pay and now that the court has ordered the judgement for us to get our overtime, they don’t want to pay us. I believe it’s unfair because we are picketing for our just reward,” she said.

The other also lamented the long hours they worked without proper payment and the incorrect procedures that the company used to terminate them.

“Seventy-two hours a week at a flat rate for seven years straight and no overtime pay and they pushed us away and got a new firm suddenly. They severed us in 2015. They gave us two weeks’ notice then pushed us away,” the aggrieved worker said.

The quartet vowed to continue the protest until their situation has been satisfactorily addressed.

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