ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The economy of Antigua & Barbuda will be hit hard if a decision by the United States of America Government to close its 70-year-old naval operations in the twin-island state takes effect in a few months’ time.
Close to 100 people will lose their jobs when the United States Air Station (Antigua Air Station), located in Coolidge, closes by mid-2015, reliable sources have indicated.
A well-placed source, who did not receive clearance to speak publicly on the issue, said the air station will be closed indefinitely and workers will be terminated over a nine-month period.
The source said the workers employed by Computer Science Raytheon (CSR), which is contracted by the station, were notified of the closure on Friday, but no rationale was given.
“We were told by the Commander that the Defense Department of the United States government have decided to close the base and the prime minister was informed on December 15 that the process will take place and will happen in the next nine months,” a worker said.
“We were shocked by the development because we were in the middle of re-negotiating a new contract with the air station.”
The employees say although they were told that the process will take nine months, they fear the base will close much earlier.
The workers are hoping to meet with their bargaining agent the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union to discuss the way forward on the matter.
According to the source, the air station is still in the process of shifting some of its operations to Australia, and when this is completed, it’s likely the current station will be deactivated and returned to the government of Antigua & Barbuda.
The air station, in 2013, said it would be dismantling and relocating its radar system from Antigua to the Harold E Holt Naval Communication Station in northwest, Australia, a move that should be completed by the end of this year.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)