By Latrishka Thomas
Antigua & Barbuda Free Trade Union (ABFTU) have pledged legal action against the Labour Department and Attorney General (AG) Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin after they apparently cancelled an election due to take place yesterday where workers at the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority were to vote for their union of choice.
ABFTU president Samuel James told Observer that the body had already contacted its lawyer after placing the Labour Department and AG on notice via a news broadcast yesterday morning.
He said, “that if by the end of today [Monday], we don’t hear any official correspondence reinstating the balloting, then we will have no further recourse but to contact our lawyers to deal with this matter at the High Court.”
He continued, “we’re just tired of this system where the system pick and choose and protects its own to the detriment of other people – 2020 is here, we are not going to sit quiet anymore,” James exclaimed.
The union boss further disclosed that about 30 percent of the port workers, currently represented by the Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU), filed a petition in 2018 to decertify the AT&LU in favour of having the Free Trade Union become their sole bargaining agent.
And, according to him, that election would have taken place had it not apparently been cancelled by the Labour Department under the advice of the AG.
James also said that that matter should not have taken two years and he thinks the delay is due to tactics deployed by the AT&LU who “used its connection with the political directorate to somehow give some unlawful direction to the Labour Department to cancel the balloting.”
Furthermore, “the Attorney General has to be aware that there is no legal authority to come to a balloting that was … lawfully set,” James continued.
But, the AG told Observer that balloting could not take place due to an ongoing, undisclosed matter in the High Court.
“I’ve been informed, and do verily believe, that an application was made for the court’s determination of a legal issue. And until that legal issue has been determined, nothing can move forward. That is the law of this land,” Benjamin explained.
Benjamin therefore welcomed the legal action saying, “whoever it is, is quite in order to take whatever course of action he deems appropriate in the circumstances, but law is the law. “If there is a … legal issue to be addressed, that legal issue must first be resolved …before one can proceed. And any person who thinks that it is a wrong interpretation of the law is quite entitled to take the appropriate procedures to have that matter addressed.”