Plans by the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) to stage Labour Day activities to criticise the government are being condemned by a key government spokesman.
The annual Labour Day celebration – a public holiday – is observed on the first Monday of each May and the ABWU said it intends to hold a march and other events to highlight why its members have no confidence in the government.
The union said its theme — “Workers have no confidence in this government! We deserve better!” – underscores the prevailing sense of abandonment workers have experienced under the Gaston Browne administration, following what they describe as his “relentless attack on the labour movement and workers in general”.
A statement posted on the ABWU’s Facebook page on Friday cites the plight of former Jolly Beach Resort workers, still awaiting severance pay more than two years after the resort closed, among its concerns. It also hit out at the long overdue review of the minimum wage – which is supposed to take place every two years – along with the soaring cost of living.
However, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office Lionel Hurst believes that displacing the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party administration is the ABWU’s real motive.
“Anyone who expects anything other than condemnation from the ABWU is naive. The ABWU had one object in mind when it was formed and that is to crush the ABLP.
“It has never succeeded and all the talk about not caring for workers is just members who are determined to displace the ABLP in office,” Hurst said.
He denied that the incumbent government has abandoned workers, noting that the government kept every worker employed during the pandemic.
“The government has been very caring. We have gone to great expense to ensure that the 13,000 people who work for the government have all remained employed during the pandemic.
“If we had taken the advice of the IMF and the World Bank, we would have sent home hundreds of people,” Hurst added.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Labour Day is a chance for workers to unite and to celebrate their successes.
He said, collectively, the country has triumphed over the worst pandemic in 100 years.
Browne added that partisan interests will never triumph over the struggles and successes of workers.
The ABWU represents ex-LIAT 1974 staff and the Jolly Beach Resort’s 500 former employees, among others.