Port workers agitate for safety gear

About 120 port workers took industrial action yesterday to highlight what they claim was the Port Authority’s failure to issue the workers with safety equipment.

Workers clocked in yesterday morning but refused to go onto the port grounds without safety gear in an effort to draw the attention of management. All workers took part in the action, which began at 10 am.

The workers were represented by the Antigua & Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), whose Deputy Director Chester Hughes, said that the issues had been a recurring one for several years.

“The union has been patient with the management of the port as it relates to them providing safety gear, however, that equipment and gear was not forthcoming,” Hughes said.

“We decided that we would clock in this morning and take up a safe position on the port and demand a meeting with management to discuss when this gear would be made available.”

According to the ABWU official, on taking notice of the action. the Port Authority acquiesced to the demands of workers and called a meeting with the union and representatives from the Labour Department.

At the end of the negotiations, the port management agreed to a timeline under which protective gear would be issued to its workers.

According to Hughes, in one week’s time, all employees will be provided with hard hats. In one month’s time, all employees will be provided with illuminated vests, and in 45 days, they will receive additional safety apparatus.

Another meeting has been scheduled for this week Thursday between the union and the Port Authority to continue discussions on the acquisition of safety gear.

“The port is a very dangerous place to work – a high risk work place. The necessary safety gear and equipment must always be in place,” Hughes reiterated.

Workers at the largely overstaffed port have long been at loggerheads with the management over several longstanding issues and in past years strike action has frequently disrupted operations at the facility.