Transport Board workers abort protest

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Hundreds of would-be license-renewal seekers; car owners looking to get their vehicles inspected; and even parents expecting regular school bus transport of their children, were spared great inconvenience Tuesday as, most likely unbeknownst to them, the planned shutdown of the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board (ABTB) was aborted.

Last week Friday, near half of the 250-plus ABTB employees made their way to the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) headquarters as they sought some recompense to a collectively bargained increase of 5 percent.

A 3 percent increase was agreed for 2019 with the remaining 2 percent set to take effect as of January, 2020.

When the workers left the ABWU’s Freedom Hall conference centre on Friday, they did so with an agreement in principle for written correspondence to be delivered to the union, specifically outlining that the promised increase would be enacted before Christmas 2019.

Having not received the written correspondence, while addressing the workers gathered at Freedom Hall, union President, Kem Riley, spurred by the membership in attendance, made the decision at around 12:15 pm to take their grievance to the inspection center at the Transport Board’s Paynters location in the form of a protest intended to severely disrupt the main revenue center for the ABTB.

“If you want us to go up to the Transport Board to the inspection centre in our numbers, we can go,” said Riley. His charge was met with a resounding “yes” by an eager crowd who wanted to make their voices heard.

Just a few moments later, however, the workers made a u-turn, back into the union hall as the Riley made them aware of a letter just handed to him.

The letter was dated 10th December, 2019, addressed to the union’s general secretary, David Massiah, and signed by Public Utilities permanent secretary, Edson Joseph.

It read: “It should be noted at a Board of Directors meeting convened on Wednesday 27th November, 2019, it was discussed, voted and approved to complete the process in keeping with negotiations of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union. There, approval has been granted for the immediate application of a three percent increase in salary as well as retroactive payments for the 2019 period. Further, these retroactive payments will be paid between the 15th and 23rd December, 2019. Additionally, the two percent increase for the 2020 period will take effect from January, 2020.”

“With this letter in hand,” announced Riley, “we have an agreement and an approval… we now have it in writing and so we ask that everybody go back to work.”

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