ABWU Condemns PM Browne’s Accusations 

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
Gaston Browne

ABWU Condemns PM Browne’s Accusations 

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) condemns the unsubstantiated accusations levelled against the Union by Prime Minister Gaston Browne during his 2024 Labour Day address at the AT&LU’s Labour Day Rally.

Among other accusations, the Prime Minister falsely stated that the ABWU’s Leadership had accepted bribes from hoteliers and had neglected the interest of workers.

These accusations are nothing more than mischievous tactics designed to undermine the confidence of workers in their Union.

Our membership recognize these comments for what they really are: a deflection from the failed social and economic policies of the Gaston Browne Administration.

Notwithstanding, we wish to highlight some of the important benefits that hotel workers have won through their Union – the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union.

These include a Thrift Fund covering thousands of hotel workers included on the ABHTA contract, and Medical Insurance coverage for workers and their families. Additionally, hotel workers continue to receive all their negotiated increases to date.

While these achievements are significant and have added tremendous value to the lives of hotel workers, it is the Government’s uncaring policies over the last 9 years that have diminished and even eroded the impact of many of these benefits.

The Gaston Browne Administration has repeatedly turned a deaf ear to hotel workers who have been pleading for the administration to address the skyrocketing cost of living.

If hotel workers are unable to afford a car or secure a mortgage as Browne claims, then that is an indictment on his administration’s social and economic policies, not the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union. 

If the Gaston Browne administration is as genuinely concerned about the financial well-being of hotel workers as it purports to be, then why did they vehemently oppose the labour union’s minimum wage proposal of $10.00 per hour in favor of a lower rate? Again it is the policies and anti-worker posture of the Gaston Browne Administration that continue to pauperise workers in this country.

Hotel workers struggled through the pandemic with minimal support from the Government.

Truth be told, in many cases, it was the thrift fund established through the foresight of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union that saved many workers from complete ruin.

Unlike the Gaston Browne administration, our Union believes in cultivating positive relationships with our partners; relationships that are built on the principles of mutual respect and dialogue, not bullying, slander and disrespect. 

As a result, we were able to collaborate with the ABHTA and other hoteliers to deliver thousands of food packages and food vouchers to workers during the Pandemic.

Apart from the Pandemic, the ongoing inflation crisis has been left unchecked by the Gaston Browne Administration despite the many cries for relief.

In fact, to add insult to injury, the Gaston Browne Administration hiked the rate of ABST and other taxes without consideration for the dire straits many workers found themselves in coming out of the Pandemic.

This administration has gone above and beyond to demonstrate that it is devoid of compassion and all natural affection when it comes to workers.

Our Union, on the other hand, has gone beyond the Collective Agreement and the strict definition of industrial relations, to negotiate exclusive discounts for our members who do business with our corporate partners.

Just imagine how workers would have been in a much better place if the Government used its influence to undertake similar initiatives to bring relief to workers.

It is also ironic that the Prime Minister would present himself as a champion for the well-being of private sector workers while public sector employees, directly under his care, are crying out against deplorable conditions of work, dilapidated facilities and delayed negotiations.

Hotel workers are not gullible and simple-minded as the Prime Minister seems to believe.

They are observing the facts and analysing the actions of the Government.

The Prime Minister also used his Labour Day address to issue a call for the AT&LU to poach on the ABWU’s membership, while claiming that the AT&LU’s alignment with the Labour Party is a standard of integrity and commitment to workers’ rights.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This administration has issued the most threats to workers and has trampled upon their rights without remorse. 

The ongoing severance battle with LIAT workers has underscored the Prime Minister’s contempt for workers’ rights and the presence of powerful unions.

Today, while the Barbados government has begun issuing the final portions of its settlement arrangement with workers, the Browne Administration is still bullying workers into accepting a pittance. Certainly, this is not the posture of a worker-friendly or union-friendly government.

Again, we recognize the Prime Minister’s statements for what they really are: a deflection from the failures of his administration! The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union remains strong.

Our members are committed and not easily swayed by threats, lies, and foolish enticements. We are focused on our mandate to protect the rights of workers and improve their conditions of work.

We are not guided or blinded by any political agenda, and we will continue to resist all attempts to erode the rights of workers and undermine the role of the Union.

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