By Samantha Simon
Over 100 delegates gathered this past Sunday, for the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union’s (ABWU) 56th Annual Delegates Conference held under the theme “The Struggle Continues, Our Dedication and Commitment.”
The two-day conference commenced with an opening ceremony that featured speeches from the leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Jamale Pringle, guest speaker David Abdulah, an economist and Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader in Trinidad and Tobago.
In his address, Pringle spoke to the UPP’s commitment to supporting the underserved members of the community such as single mothers, seasonal workers and youth who struggle within the currently inflated economy and in the face of unemployment, falling in line with the conference’s theme this year.
Pringle also commended the staff and members of the ABWU for their diligent service towards the working men and women across the island and ensuring that their rights within the workplace are protected.
The President of the ABWU, Kem Riley, also gave voice to the issues facing members of the local, regional and international workforce, and the challenges faced by the organisation amidst its activism to ensure the improvement of the standard of living across the island.
Despite these attacks, struggles and blockades, the ABWU continues to fight for an increasing number of members seeking representation, according to the organisation’s president, which further cements its commitment to this year’s theme.
Riley continued, that the erosion of the Unions causes a tilt in the balance of power, hampering social dialogue and democratic decision processes, presenting a serious threat to worker’s rights, social justice and democratic ideals.
The Union President closed by asking the delegates to stand in solidarity with the Union, to ensure an equitable and balanced environment, as the struggle continues.
The ABWU’s General Secretary, Senator David Massiah, addressed the concerns surrounding the rapid growth and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the need for regulation and proper implementation practices by the Government and employers, to ensure that workers are not made obsolete, but rather supported by these technological advancements.
Massiah also pointed to the potential of AI being introduced into society to effect positive changes, including within healthcare and education, to empower persons to think creatively and push the boundaries of human knowledge.
His address also touched on the responsibility of Trade Unions within Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to tackle the issue of climate change and its effects on the economy and the livelihoods of those living within said States.
The guest speaker, David Abdulah, spoke on the history of the trade and labour movement across the region, and the need to attract youth to stand in solidarity as their predecessors did in years past.
Of course, in keeping with the theme, he stressed that more persons must join the fight, as the struggle continues.
The conference continues today, Monday 18 September, with discussions and workshops targeted to addressing issues faced by the delegates and the workers they represent.