Long-standing union boss reinstated despite controversy – but pledges to groom a successor

Scenes from yesterday’s special conference held by the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (Photos by Theresa Goodwin)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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Longstanding President of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) Wigley George said his resignation from the post is imminent, however, it will not come at a time when tempers are flaring within the organisation.

He said he will spend the next few months grooming a possible successor.

He was re-elected to the body’s top position yesterday – by virtue of there being no challenger – after a fractious meeting and despite calls for him to resign.

“I think the circumstances right now dictate that I will hold on for a little bit. Whoever is elected Vice President will be working along with me for the next couple of months, then I will make that determination. I want to do it without any rancour or any bad feeling,” he told Observer.

George was first elected as the union’s President in September 1994 after joining the body in 1976.

Yesterday’s special conference called by him at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium was to address concerns regarding his leadership and select a new First Vice President and General Secretary.

Those three positions were up for re-election during the event which was punctuated by loud outbursts from divided factions within the union, some of whom were there to support the President and others who were there in support of General Secretary Hugh Joseph.

Joseph was replaced, with the post to be occupied by another longstanding union member, Alrick Daniel, who is no stranger to the role.

Daniel held the position several years ago before resigning ahead of a delegates’ conference.

Bernard de Nully was also elected First Vice President.

The special conference – held under the theme “restoring the confidence of members in the union” – was well attended by workers from across various sectors who are represented by the AT&LU.

The atmosphere was very tense and became hostile at times with the opposing factions speaking over each other throughout the proceedings to voice their disagreement.

The police, who were in attendance, also had to act swiftly to quell the crowd which got rowdy when Joseph left his seat in the audience to take control of the mic’ to give his perspective on the series of events that led up to the conference.

Joseph and other members of the executive claim the conference was called without the knowledge of key members of the executive, and that the event went against the union’s constitution which outlines that a single issue of importance allows for such a conference to be called.

The division within the union also stems from the government’s former vaccine mandate for public sector workers that was temporarily implemented last year.

George told Observer yesterday one of the primary reasons the conference was called was to provide full details on the matter. 

Meanwhile, the conference and its accompanying controversy led to many workers questioning whether or not they will remain members of the union.

Observer also reached out to former general secretary Hugh Joseph who declined to comment at this time.

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