Staff gives Works Ministry two weeks to distribute gear

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The management of the Ministry of Works & Housing has been given an ultimatum by staff member who have vowed to strike again if promised gear, such as protective footwear and overalls are not forthcoming in two weeks.

This is according to the President of Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU), Wigley George, who said some workers had been “working in slippers and other soft shoes” due to the absence of gear from the Public Works Department (PWD).

“The department recognises this and is going to treat it as an emergency. They have said that those who are wearing slippers and other unsuitable shoes that cannot handle the asphalt will be issued boots by tomorrow,” George said.

He added that management has agreed to provide the balance of the workforce with gear by the middle of the month “anywhere around the 18th or 19th of February” and that workers had “vowed that once the matter is not dealt with they will withhold their labour again”.

George said staff at the ministry “withheld their work” for several hours after 8 am on Wednesday morning until the matter was resolved in a meeting among workers, management and the union.

When contacted, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works & Housing, Senator Michael Freeland said that to his mind “there was no strike action” but just “some deliberations”. Freeland admitted that “there was no communication flowing from management to workers of when to expect the gear”.

“We asked them for some patience as the Budget is ongoing and the Budget has to go to the Upper House. In the interim we have facilitated some boots to be issued to those who are in dire need,” Freeland said, adding that the remaining individuals would be issued gear “no later than February”.

The senator quoted the number of people working for the department and who would require such gear as being between 300 and 400 individuals.

However, according to the bargaining agent for the workers, the issuing of gear is merely one of several reasons for which workers went on strike yesterday. The other reasons include “outstanding overtime pay, the effect of an increase in Social Security and outstanding back pay”.

More in today’s Daily Observer.

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