The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda is sympathising with workers of the St John’s Development Corporation (SJDC) who walked off the job last week after claiming they were in the dark about the Global Ports take-over.
SJDC workers down tools last Wednesday after expressing concerns about the security of their jobs in light of the announcement that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has entered into an agreement with Global Ports Holding to invest over US $80 million in the further development of the St John’s Harbour.
During an interview on his Pointe FM radio station on the weekend, Prime Minister Gaston Browne stated that from his understanding, while the information is in the public’s domain, nothing was communicated to the workers or their bargaining agent, the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU).
“The staff should have been engaged. We met with the Minister of Tourism and the various stakeholders and they would have known that a commitment was given that there would be no displacement, and we will make sure that the staff continues to enjoy employment and whatever benefits they are due,” Browne said.
He further suggested the only change that is likely to be made is that some of the staff may be transferred or seconded to Global Ports. However, they will be paid their severance and other entitlements before this takes place.
Browne said it is expected that Global Ports will employ probably 35 to 40 workers to run the operations.
“We can’t allow Global Ports to bring in people to run it. They can have the top management to provide guidance and so on, but it will be Antiguans and Barbudans who will continue to operate the facility . . . under private management,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, the AT&LU will be meeting with the management of SJDC this week to discuss how the Global Ports takeover will affect staff.
President of the union Wigley George told our newsroom recently that he was very much concerned about the staff at the statutory corporation.
“The union met with the staff last Wednesday, and coming out of that meeting we were advised that all of the documents pertaining to Global Ports will be presented to the union and after [perusing] it we will be meeting with the management and then the workers to go through the pros and cons,” George said.
According to the government, the agreement will allow Global Ports Holding to bring its financial strength and expertise to the expansion project at the cruise port and to eliminate a debt of US $21 million that has not been serviced for several years.
It was also outlined in a statement that Global Ports will ensure the completion of the dredging of the St John’s Habour to accommodate the Oasis class ships at the fifth berthing facility to be constructed parallel to the Point Wharf. The agreement is for 30 years.