By Latrishka Thomas
“I challenge the Attorney General to make public any court documents which would have necessitated the ending or the cancellation of the balloting yesterday [Monday 17 February],” said President of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union (ABFTU) Samuel James.
James was responding to comments made by Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin yesterday justifying the cancellation of an election where workers at the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority were slated to vote for their union of choice.
“I challenge him, bring to the media any document filed in any court, which would have necessitated the cancellation of the balloting at the Port Authority yesterday [February 17]…I can almost assure you that no such document will be made available because no such document, from our understanding, exists,” James reiterated.
According to the union boss, about 30 percent of the port workers, now represented by the Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU), filed a petition in 2018 so that the ABFTU could become their sole bargaining agent.
And, according to him, that election – two years in the making – would have taken place on Monday had it not been reportedly cancelled by the Labour Department as recommended by the Attorney General.
In response to James’s claims, the Labour Minister said that “once there is a matter to be determined concerning a matter of this nature in the High Court, nothing can proceed until those matters have, in fact, been addressed”.
However, James said that to the best of his knowledge “there is nothing before any court including the Industrial Court, that we are aware of, that compels the Labour Department to discontinue the balloting which was scheduled to be held”.
He added that “the only thing that should have stopped or could have stopped the balloting yesterday would be an order from the High Court or an injunction forbidding the Labour Department from proceeding with the balloting”, but there was no such court order.
He was adamant that the election was stopped for political reasons. “It’s in an effort to protect the Antigua Trades and Labour Union” and “is designed to be a stumbling block in the way of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union in favour of the AT&LU”, he said.
The ABFTU president disclosed that the union will be seeking legal recourse and will be holding a meeting today to discuss the matter.