ABWU Condemns PM Browne’s Attempt to Circumvent the Union in LIAT Severance Matter

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

It has come to the attention of the Antigua and BarbudaWorkers’ Union that Prime Minister Gaston Browne, has by way of a written statement and verbal remarks, indicated his intent to circumvent the Union — the legally recognized bargaining agent of the former and current LIAT (1974) employees — and establish an illegitimate direct engagement with the embattled employees of LIAT.

The Prime Minister is fully aware that such a move is a contravention of the legally established process and a direct assault on globally established conventions and practices in labour relations.

Moreover, this is a grave transgression against the principles of good governance andrepresentative democracy.The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union takes this threat very seriously! We therefore call on our brothers and sisters in the labour movement — including the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) — to publicly condemn this attack on the labour movement. Further, we extend this call to the over 30,000 workers and union members that are protected by the Unions operating in this country.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne will not undermine this or any other Union in Antigua andBarbdua! Lest we forget, it is the Unions that fought and brought an end to the exploitation in the sugar industry and among the earliest dock workers. Lest we forget, it is the Unions that have elevated the standard of living and quality of life for tens of thousands of workers employed across multiple industries.

Lest we forget, it is the Unions that have protected millions of dollars interminal benefits for workers over the past several decades. What we have achieved in the labour movement is a powerful and relentless force that will stop at NOTHING to protect the interest of workers.

Therefore, we indeed caution the Prime Minister to temper his rhetoric and abandon anysinister plot to circumvent the legally recognized bargaining agent for the workers of LIAT (1974)Ltd.

It must be stated that the Unions agreed with the initial stance taken by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as a Shareholder of LIAT (1974) Ltd. not to liquidate and collapse the airline but to find ways of making LIAT a going concern. We must applaud the Governments of St Lucia and Barbados for accepting and implementing arrangements for paying LIAT (1974) Ltd. employees 100% of their severance entitlements plus other direct entitlements.

It must be remembered that the collective position of the Unions from the onset of this unfortunate development, was that there should be a 70% disbursement of cash to all affected LIAT employees and the remaining 30% of terminal benefit entitlements could be organized as shares in LIAT (1974) Ltd. or in any other LIAT formulation going forward. No opportunity has been given to the Unions to have this and other pertinent and relevant matters ventilated and agreed upon.

This divide-and-rule attitude by the Prime Minister and his Government is counter-productive and will not work in the best interest of the employees and is certainly not the right posture for resolving the broader question of regional travel.

Hence, we implore Prime Minister Gaston Browne, once again, to meet the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union at the negotiating table. Engagement with the Union is essential to ensure that the workers received a fair and reasonable settlement. Let there be no more unnecessary delays inending the suffering of the workers of LIAT (1974) Ltd.

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