By Theresa Goodwin
The Antigua Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) has secured the support of its affiliate, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) as it looks to continue talks with the management of the Antigua Port Authority over payment of a 3.5 percent bonus for workers that was previously agreed to in a collective agreement.
The ITF is a global trade union organisation with 650 affiliates from 150 countries representing almost 20 million transport workers. The organisation has written to both Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin.
ITF explained, in the two-page letter, that it was quite disappointed that the agreed productivity bonuses will not be paid to the workers in violation of the written and signed collective agreement between the union and the management of the port.
“This is extra frustrating given the hardship the port workers in Antigua and around the world have had to endure to ensure that the necessary goods continue to be delivered around the world and the incredible efforts the workers have made throughout the pandemic,” the letter said.
Over the weekend, Browne indicated that the port was simply not in a position to pay the bonus to the workers at this time.
The organisation has also been taken aback by the assertion from PM Browne last week that Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) soldiers will be placed on standby to take up positions at the port if the workers followed through on a threat to take industrial action.
The ITF said it strongly opposes the use of the military to take over jobs at the port and urged the two government officials to find a solution within the industrial relations framework of Antigua and Barbuda, as recognised internationally.
A week ago, the ABWU had advised the port’s management that industrial action would be taken if the bonuses were not paid on or before December 15th, 2020, however, the action was called off on Tuesday after the Attorney General issued an order against the move.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Deputy General Secretary of the ABWU Chester Hughes expressed the hope that that both sides will be able to sit and discuss an amicable solution to the issues, failing which the union may be forced to resort to legal means.