Industrial action causes additional payment dispute for APUA staff

APUA’s Water Business Unit (Photo by Makeida Antonio)
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By Makeida Antonio

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The Labour Department will be intervening in an impasse between a union and a statutory corporation over staff pay this morning.

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) will represent the interests of water department staff at the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), while APUA’s management will be defending its position on payroll payments.

ABWU Deputy General Secretary Chester Hughes told Observer that several workers had held a sit-in to protest the fact they were not paid for five hours of industrial action. The initial action was staged three weeks ago in protest to late payments delayed by upgrades to the payroll system.

Hughes also told Observer that workers remain concerned about outstanding overtime payments.

Water Manager at APUA Ian Lewis confirmed that the untimely processing of payments was due to system upgrades. He said shop steward and Water Business Unit employees had been duly notified of the delay.

“APUA upgraded to an automated platform for payroll. We have a time management system now and we have been training staff in that for a while and we activated it maybe four weeks ago.

“We have a bi-weekly payroll system, and the first week of full migration there were some late submissions by the supervisors of the Water Business Unit,” Lewis told Observer yesterday.

Lewis further explained that the Friday payments were received by workers after the weekend on Monday, so the company has taken the position that it will not give compensation for the hours used for the industrial action.

“The workers decided that they were not going to go to work on Monday; they would not leave the compound and go out into the field to perform their usual tasks. They did not go out to work for five hours. This is the first time in my several years at APUA that we’ve had a day’s delay in payments,” he noted.

Preliminary reports reaching Observer suggested Water Department workers have become increasingly frustrated which prompted a meeting at APUA’s Headquarters at Cassada Gardens during the sit-in by the employees.

The union said it will stick with its stance regarding payment for workers. As such, no agreement was reached with the company during yesterday’s meeting.

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