The Government of Antigua & Barbuda has signalled that it is fully prepared to further engage the Antigua & Barbuda Employers Federation (ABEF), but expressed disappointment that according to it, the ABEF did not make the initial approach.
Government’s Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst made the position clear in response to a call from the ABEF President Leslie Salmon.
Speaking on OBSERVER AM, yesterday Hurst said, “If they say they want to have more dialogue with the government I don’t see why we would disagree with that. I’m sure the government is open to it.”
However, Hurst said that, in his view, the ABEF was a union with “continuous friction” between itself and the ruling Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) aligned Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU).
He said, “It is registered under the Trades Union Act 1939 and actually was registered as a trade union in 1951. They negotiated contracts for sugar workers … That was primarily their reason for existence – to come up against the Antigua Trades and Labour union as a union themselves.”
He claimed that “in many ways that identity has not been shed” and characterised the ABEF as “a group of employers who have a strong anti-union bent”.
The ABEF represents more than 150 businesses across Antigua & Barbuda and its president has asked for more dialogue with the government on matters pertinent to the economy, and which directly affect businesses.
He said, “I really would like to see government reach out to the business community before they make their final decisions. I think a lot of the times important decisions are made and the business community is informed after.”