By Theresa Goodwin
More former workers of the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) have come to support a legal action that has been brought against the state-owned utility company over the non-payment of pensions which date back more than 20 years.
Industrial Relations Consultant Anderson Carty filed the lawsuit on April 6th on behalf of the 27 claimants who say they have never received any portion of pension money since their mandatory retirement at the age of 60.
Carty told our newsroom that the number has now climbed to 45, and several others are expressing an interest in joining the class action suit.
He also revealed that the utility company officially filed its Memorandum of Defense late last month in response to the workers’ claim. APUA has apparently applied to have the matter struck out on the grounds that the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) is the recognised bargaining agent and not Carty.
The Industrial Relations Consultant, however, pointed out that there are provisions within the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code which allow employees to seek their own representation outside of the recognised trade union.
“The only thing that will re required is for the representative, who is leading the action, to inform the bargaining unit, as a matter of protocol. The AT&LU attended a recent meeting at the Labour Department. I have kept them abreast, in fact, all documents have been copied to them and I have also invited the General Secretary to stand-in as witness to the proceeding,” Carty said.
“That issue will be properly dealt with by the Industrial Court when the application by APUA is heard,” Carty added.
If the case is successful in the courts, the utilities company would be forced to pay out millions of dollars to the claimants who have been clamouring for their benefits for more than 20 years.
On several occasions, APUA’s management has refused to comment, and indicated that the matter is in litigation.