Union head perceives poor labour relations as possible threat to A&B’s economy

President of Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association Joan Peters (file photo)
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By Shermainbique-Charles

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Covid-19 and the spike in the cost of living aside, there’s a new threat to the country’s economic development, and that is the issue of poor labour relations, according to the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA), Joan Peters.

Peters believes that the current state of contention between the government and trade unions is affecting the public sector and crippling the already struggling economy

Peters represents the staff at the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, who are the latest to embark on protest action against the government for monies owed to them, as well as their poor working conditions.

Issues like these, Peters told Observer over the weekend, are counterproductive for a country that is constantly looking to boost its economy.

“People are not able to produce the way they should because of their mental status. These people have money outstanding for years, the environment is not conducive … these workers are not working in good faith and this is why it is counterproductive” Peters said.

The government often promises to remedy these issues as they arise, and while it has addressed some of them, this is mostly done after the workers decided to take a stand.

Peters noted that that seems to be more prevalent during the ongoing election season, but insisted that the politics need to be set aside in favour of addressing the workers’ issues in a timely manner. 

The staff at Clarevue have been voicing their displeasure just this week, after seeing no improvements to their working conditions, despite recent assurances from the government.

“When it’s election season you have to rise up…but for me, it’s not politics. Look at Clarevue, we have been arguing for three years about the same thing. They don’t continue anything. I have a problem with continuity,” Peters said

She contends that the government may be turning its back on Clarevue because the institution is not a revenue earner for the state

The Gaston Browne-led administration has faced mounting protests over the past few months, mainly for monies owed to workers. They include those from the National Solid Waste Management Authority, Fiennes Institute, Port Authority, the Care Project, and the Antigua Public Utilities Authority.

Others from the private sector who have recently engaged in similar action include former Jolly Beach Resort and Caribbean Airport Services staff who are demanding outstanding back pay.

LIAT workers are also threatening some form of protest against the government for outstanding severance and other entitlements.

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