The union that represents the interest of workers at the state-owned Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Services (ABS) Radio and Television, has explained that the rules of engagement have changed in relation to who determines whether or not the workers are able to take industrial action.

The clarification from general secretary of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) Hugh Joseph follows a remark made on Tuesday by Information & Broadcasting Minister Melford Nicholas, the minister responsible for the state-owned entity.

During an interview on Pointe FM, the minister stated that the strike action taken by workers in December was not sanctioned by their union.

“I know ordinarily when there is going to be a strike action that it is a matter that is sanctioned by the executive and I specifically asked Mr. Joseph whether or not the AT&LU has sanctioned the strike and he indicated to me ‘no’.

“Mr. Potter would have had a meeting with the employees on the Monday before the action took place and I know they were encouraged to do so. But the executive never sanctioned the strike that took place at ABS,” Nicholas said.

However, in an interview with our newsroom, Joseph explained that there was a time, as laid out in the union’s constitution, where it would require an executive decision to call a strike action with the concurrence of the majority.

He said the constitution was updated to reflect certain changes, and industrial relations officers are in constant communication with the general secretary for guidance.

Joseph said this does not stop workers from taking matters into their own hands, once they are not satisfied with the advice of their bargaining agent.

“If the workers are saying we are not working, what can the general secretary, or any other officer for that matter, do?” Joseph questioned.

As it relates to protest at ABS, Joseph stated the officer was in constant dialogue with him and the officer informed him that he had tried without success to reach Minister Nicholas, and they got to a point where they felt they had no other choice but to protest.

The AT&LU General Secretary stated further that he was satisfied with that explanation.

“The union officer was with the members; the president and [I] had discussions with the officer and we were all aware of what was happening,” the general secretary said.

In late December, the employees at the state-owned entity walked off the job to protest several matters they said needed to be addressed.

These included, they alleged, poor treatment meted out to them by management, deplorable working conditions, and outstanding overtime payment.

The staff hav since returned to work and the matter was referred to the Labour Department, which is yet to issue a final report on the way forward.