Union says UPP’s proposal for national minimum wage increase is fair and reasonable

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General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union, David Massiah (File photo)
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By Shermain Bique-Charles

[email protected]

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union is supporting the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) plans to increase the national minimum wage to EC$10 an hour – and said they are both disappointed and flabbergasted by the Cabinet’s previous rejection of their recommended rate hike.

The UPP said if they are successful at the polls next week, the minimum wage will be increased to that amount from its current EC$9 per hour.

ABWU General Secretary David Massiah told Observer yesterday that the body considers this to be a fair and reasonable rate that will allow those in the lowest income bracket to earn a livable wage.

He said the ABWU applauds the urgency with which the opposition party is proposing to implement the rise.

“The unpleasant reality is that many Antiguans and Barbudans, Caricom nationals and individuals from the Dominican Republic have been plunged into abject poverty through astronomical increases in the cost of living and the stagnation of the national minimum wage.

“This crisis requires swift action to bring relief to the thousands of workers who have kept our economy from complete collapse. Further, we note the UPP’s pledge to adhere to the statutory requirement to review the national minimum wage every two years,” Massiah added.

The negotiation was on the table for quite some time and a committee was also put in place to review recommendations from unions and the business sector.

Late last year, the government announced that the minimum wage would be increased from $8.20 to $9.

Massiah lamented the meagre EC$0.80 rise on what he said was an already outdated wage.

“This is a matter that we take very seriously. Between 2014 and 2022, Gaston Browne and the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party [ABLP] administration refused to honour this statutory requirement … the Labour Minister repeatedly ignored our missives calling for the establishment of the national minimum wage advisory committee,” he said.

The ABWU boss said, unfortunately, it was only in the run-up to a general election that discussions on the minimum wage became a priority for the government.

“By their own track record, it is evident that the ABLP administration has no interest in the wellbeing of workers, especially the most vulnerable. The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union recognises the pivotal nature of the pending general elections.

“It is an opportunity for the nation to part ways with an administration that has repeatedly bullied and trampled upon the rights of workers,” he said.

Furthermore, Massiah said that, to date, many employees are yet to be compensated by the government for lost work days due to refusing to take the Covid vaccine.

“Additionally, hundreds of former LIAT workers are still languishing after being denied a fair severance settlement, and the Gaston Browne administration refuses to entertain any dialogue with their legally recognised bargaining agent, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union,” he said.

The ABWU said the UPP, on the other hand, is already demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with the unions as well as an interest in addressing other issues affecting workers.

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