Port workers refusing to wear protective gear

The Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority said it will continue to meet its legal responsibilities to workers despite pushback from some quarters with employees refusing to wear protective gear while on the job.

Port manager Darwin Telemaque said the port is obligated to provide  reflective vests, hard hats, appropriate footwear,  gloves and other protective gear to workers, but, some  of the items are not being worn.

Speaking to a recent example, Telemaque told OBSERVER media that raincoats bought for staff remain unworn despite the recent showers.

“Having realised there was a drizzle and there were no raincoats available I went and bought 100 raincoats at 9:30 [Monday] night, brought them to the port only to be told that they did not wear them. These are raincoats that they could take home and put their name on and use for a year,” he said.

Telemaque said, despite the continued showers, the port is still expected to function efficiently and when work grinds to a halt because of rains it affects the vessels that still need to be offloaded so they can depart for their next destination on schedule.

“If the staff is not outside alongside the vessel then work will stop and you don’t want the vessel owners to say you are impeding the progress and productivity,” Telemaque said. “I personally delivered the raincoats and asked them to come in one at a time and as of [Monday] only two were worn, the others figured it was best to get wet.” 

The port manager added that not wearing the port issued protective gear can be harmful to one’s health and makes it difficult to claim for occupational injury.

Employees at the port had complained for years that they were not being issued the gear they needed to work.

Telemaqe said the 

port is currently fulfilling its contractual agreement, which is also a requirement of the employees’ protection law.

“Antigua is a signatory to the occupational safety law that has been moving about the region. We are obligated to provide them with safety gear. It is also required by the labour contract we have, if they refuse to wear the gear then action will be taken against them. If they get injured without the gear then they lose the benefit,” he added.

In addition to the earlier mentioned protective gear, Telemaque said protective eyewear is a requirement but there is a shortage which will be addressed soon.