Port workers to receive 2.5 percent bonus following meeting that disrupted services

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Port workers protest Christmas bonus (photo by Theresa Goodwin)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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What may have been a gruelling two-hour wait for residents wishing to conduct business at the port yesterday, resulted in some positives for Port Authority workers who will be receiving a 2.5 percent bonus in the coming days.

The employees halted work for around two hours on Wednesday morning and demanded an immediate meeting with management on the issue of bonuses and other industrial relations matters that have been on the table for some time.

During the meeting, residents who were hoping to clear barrels, boxes and conduct other business, stood outside in the blazing sun as they waited patiently to hear whether or not they would be able to complete their activities.

A few of them also left after expressing frustration about the process and the fact that they were getting little or no information from security personnel who were telling everyone at the entry gate to wait under the tent as no one was being allowed to enter.

Things returned to normal shortly before 11am when the meeting with the workers concluded.

CEO of the Antigua Port Authority Darwin Telemaque told Observer that yesterday was the deadline for the conclusion of a series of talks on the annual bonuses for 2021 and the meeting was held in this regard.

He said following talks with the workers and representatives of both the Antigua Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) and the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU), all parties accepted the 2.5 percent bonus offered made by port management.

Residents rejoin lines at the port after waiting for two hours for business to resume (Photo by Theresa Goodwin)

“We were very pleased that the workers saw it fit to accept the offer; it is an offer that is challenging for the port itself because we are not in a very strong financial position.

“But, considering the challenges that we have had over the years and the many issues and concerns that have been raised, we thought it would have been appropriate to at least make the effort,” Telemaque said.

He also disclosed that the sides have reached a consensus on another matter of bonuses that is now before the court.

“The union and the staff raised the issue of the bonus that they requested in 2020 and we reached an agreement on that as well.

“We agreed to a payout of about two percent in the first part of 2022. That, too, is something that we wrapped up and put behind us and we hope that going forward we would not be in such contentious positions,” Telemaque added.

Meanwhile, Deputy General Secretary of the ABWU, Chester Hughes, said the workers demanded the meeting yesterday after they felt that the negotiations had dragged on for too long.

“All of the issues were resolved; we will have further consultations on the royalty because they have submitted for us several workers who are due royalty payments.

“However, the shop steward and the works committee had some issues, so the leadership of the port has agreed they will get the full information that we require and we will have further discussions on the matter,” Hughes explained.

A royalty is a form of service charge that is paid by ships that dock at the port, and that amount is handled by the port and paid directly to some categories of workers.

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