Litany of concerns raised at poorly attended TUC rally

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Attorney General & Labour Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin heard a plethora of burning issues from union leaders on Monday as he joined the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Labour Day rally at the Thirty-Niners Square/ Westerby Memorial in St John’s.
The more than dozen police officers at the gathering outnumbered the workers in attendance, but this did not diminish the passion communicated in the speeches of the union leaders.
President of the Antigua & Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) Joan Peters concentrated much of her attention on problems plaguing workers at the Ministry of Health.
“The workers at Medical Stores are being brutalised; they are being victimised; they are being cast away and chastised and we want to say to the minister of health, we will not stand up and stand by and allow you,” Peters said.
The union leader accused Health Minister Molwyn Joseph of going back on his word to have workers at the Central Medical Stores continue in their jobs despite the division being transferred from the oversight of the ministry to the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS).
“In less than a month time it seems as though somebody changed their mind … today the workers are being displaced and medical benefits is having interview with brand new people,” Peters said.
“These people are going to have to be trained before they can start working and we already have trained people to do the work. Mr Minister, we are saying today no way we are accepting it,” she added.
Peters demanded a meeting between the ABPSA and Joseph as she touched on several other complaints.
“Clarevue [Psychiatric Hospital has] issues. The bathroom is untenable for both patients and workers. Apart from that there are other issues there; outstanding overtime; outstanding risk allowance; outstanding back pay. Fiennes is the same thing, there’s a building at Fiennes leaning on its side … and don’t talk about Mount St John’s [Medical Center]; we have issues there, nuff ton,” Peters said.
The union leader also demanded on behalf of all unions representing public sector workers to have negotiations on salary increases restarted.
“We have been stalled for a long time and our economic state is getting worse, our economic viability is getting worse as workers because everything is going up and the money stays at the same place … we are worse off right now than what we were some years ago,” Peters said.
Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GABATCO) General Secretary Natasha Mussington meanwhile painted a grim picture of working conditions at the VC Bird International Airport saying the guild is disgusted.
“Conditions in the air traffic unit have shown little or no improvement, the navigation equipment available [is] antique at best and malfunctions are a regular occurrence. Communication equipment needed for safe and reliable communication with other islands and pilots malfunctions daily, as recent as of yesterday this was a cause of delay and backlog of flights. Something must be done! The 30-year-old radar programme and equipment has never been available; we have been trained but cannot use our training,” Mussington said.
The GABTACO representative said the union has waited over 15 years for regular deep cleaning of the building to take place and said the workers face leaks in the building when it rains.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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