By Theresa Goodwin
An ongoing row over pay is threatening to further disrupt the country’s hotel sector at the peak of the tourism season.
Yesterday, the majority of workers at the Cocos Hotel in Valley Road refused to work after the resort apparently rejected a proposed EC$14 increase on employees’ weekly salaries.
The row could now trigger further action across the entire sector.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) Kem Riley hinted at this when he disclosed to Observer that the union will be visiting all hotel properties across Antigua in the coming days to update staff on the progress of the ongoing talks with the ABHTA.
More than 38,000 people are currently employed in the country’s hospitality sector.
Workers at Cocos, an all-inclusive property close to Jolly Harbour, stood in solidarity with their colleagues yesterday indicating that the proposed increase is deserving and they worked hard for it.
They are expected to return to normal duties today while the union meets with workers at other properties.
The ABHTA is contending that the request for the increase is not feasible at this time.
Riley, who spoke on workers’ behalf yesterday, explained that the union presented the proposal for the increase to the ABHTA as part of ongoing talks for a new collective bargaining agreement.
However, it was rejected by most of the properties that fall under the membership of the ABHTA.
“We are standing in solidarity with the workers and we are going around to all the properties under the Hotel Association to make our voices heard. We are asking the employers to accept and agree to the $14 as recommended by the union,” Riley continued.
He claimed hotels were reluctant to agree to the increase due to the fact that a EC$16 weekly increase was added to workers’ pay at the beginning of last month. But he said that payment was a deferral from last year and should have no bearing on current negotiations.
The management of the Cocos Hotel yesterday refused to provide a comment to the media.
Meanwhile, Executive Chairman of the ABHTA Vernon Jeffers said as far as the body is concerned the negotiations with the union are ongoing and the ABWU is yet to provide a written response to the association.
“Clearly this is a strategy that is being implemented by the union and it is in violation of all the rules as set out in the collective agreement that we have with them,” Jeffers said.
He added that the body had not rejected the offer but merely requested more time, until at least later this year, to enable members to discuss its feasibility.