Protest action by over 200 officials of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union’s (AT&LU) yesterday forced the management of Diamonds International to permit the company’s Shop Steward to attend the business session of the union’s 78th Annual Delegates Conference.
The Union suspended yesterday’s conference at its headquarters on North Street and marched to the Heritage Quay establishment to demand that Geraldine Thomas be allowed to attend the sessions and be paid.
Hugh Joseph, general secretary of the union, and Wigley George, the president, led the group that converged outside the store, blocking the entrance as they waited patiently while other union officials engaged the management of the company in talks.
They sang the union’s theme song “Solidarity forever” until nearly an hour later when the shop steward Thomas emerged from the business place to join them.
Joseph said the trade union wrote the management of the jewellery store to making the request weeks ago and in a delayed response, the company indicated that Thomas would be given the time off but without pay.
This, however, did not go down well with the trade union body.
“This leads to a situation in which they wrote to her [Thomas] before, earlier this year, indicating that as Shop Steward she was not allowed to deal with worker’s matters which in my view is very contradictory,” Joseph said.
He added, “That’s her role and her function. There are some institutions with Shop Stewards, and that is their only function, dealing with workers’ matters. And, they are paid by the employer.”
The union official said he views the move as a continuation of “bad industrial relations practices” on the part of Diamonds International.
Joseph said the union’s fight with the company started earlier this year after the workers became unionised.
“They have tried their best to intimidate the workers against supporting the union. Immediately after they became unionised, two workers were terminated, those matters were taken to the Labour Department.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)