Union ‘surprised’ port matter was brought before the Industrial Court

Minister of Labour Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin (File photo)
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

The Industrial Court has been asked to resolve a dispute between employees and the management at the Antigua Port Authority.

On Monday, an emergency hearing was held at the court, after Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin filed memoranda, asking the court to make a judgement on whether port workers are entitled to take action over unpaid annual bonuses and advances.

In December 2020, the workers, through the ABWU, threatened to take industrial action if they were not paid the 3.5 percent annual bonus as outlined in their collective agreement.

Deputy Secretary General of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) Chester Hughes said that the union was prepared to take legal action if a resolution was not forthcoming.

He was however “surprised” at the turn of events, when he was served with court documents last Thursday.

Hughes said he was under the impression that the matter was being addressed after he met with Prime Minister Gaston Browne on December 21, where both parties presumably agreed to certain terms.

“Low and behold, last week Wednesday we were served with a notice from the Attorney General’s Office that he has filed the matter into the Industrial Court,” he told Observer.

The ABWU has until this Friday to present its case, while the port authority has until Monday to present its documentation to the court.

“The Attorney General’s Office, I believe, by the consent order, will be invited to present their memoranda on the subject matter because they filed it and witness statement and everything for the union are due by Friday,” Hughes said.

The matter will go to trial on January 14 and the Deputy General said he is confident that the court will rule in favour of the employees.

“There are certain things that went down in court yesterday [Monday] that are concerning to the court itself and the union and the employer,” he said. “We feel very confident about the matter. We feel very, very confident that the court will do what is right in the interest of Antigua and Barbuda and the workers,” Hughes added.

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