By Makeida Antonio
Several disgruntled workers attached to the Ministry of Works will be demonstrating for outstanding overtime payments today as Cabinet meets to discuss various national affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Keithroy Merchant, the shop steward at Bendals Quarry, said about 100 employees from several departments in the Ministry of Works to include transport, roads, quarries, the hot mix plant, and maintenance, were awaiting notification of when the payments would continue from the Works Minister.
However, Works Minister Lennox Weston said he found it “strange” that workers were awaiting notification from him as he claimed there was ongoing dialogue between him and the employees owed money.
Weston explained that the government was unable to provide overtime pay during the pandemic, not only for Public Works staff, but other workers throughout the government system.
“We all knew that the pandemic resulted in a dramatic cut in government’s revenue, so we told them we would start to pay them from last month, which we did.
“We paid the amounts that were due for 2019-2020 and we said that after we were finished with salaries, we would continue to pay for 2021,” Weston told Observer yesterday.
He said overtime payments had already commenced and will be continuing throughout the week.
“This week we’ve started to pay. We’ve paid some today, we will continue during the week and we are fully aware there are a couple of workers who feel they want to go to the protest line; they said they were called up by the union,” he added.
Meanwhile, Industrial Relations Officer at the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, Ralph Potter, addressed the workers regarding a meeting held on Monday about outstanding overtime payments, and indicated that a letter will be sent to all shop stewards outlining terms of industrial action and further union negotiations.
“There are some other concerns, too, which I informed the Permanent Secretary we would put in writing to him and he will get that letter [yesterday].
“We don’t have any time limit for the industrial action. The timeline can be determined by the Ministry of Works by simply keeping the commitment that they made,” Potter added.
The union, along with the Bendals Quarry shop steward, told Observer the reason for the industrial action was that an agreement signed by the Minister and the Permanent Secretary outlining how the overtime payments were to be paid — half upfront and the rest in installments — was breached.