ABS Workers: Inspired By The Spirit Of Auntie Gwen

ABS staff during recent protest/ Newsco Photo

Rawlston Pompey

In the ‘World of Work,’ as it is in ‘Management,’ people in every stratum of society are said to have shared certain attributes. Among these are said to be integrity, sincerity and loyalty. There is certain amount of confidentiality. These often bring out the professionalism in those that see their workplaces as providing opportunities for growth and advancement. These attributes often allow for commonality of understanding, harmonious relations and ‘Functional Approach,’ particularly as they affect ‘Problem Solving.’ These however, are dependent upon an ‘Enabling Environment,’ a primary responsibility of ‘Management.’ In the same world, there is selfishness as there is crookedness. There is also organizational and institutional treachery.


This commentary specifically looks at developments within the ‘State-owned Entities,’ nationally known as the ‘Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting and Television Services (ABS Radio/TV).’ These are looked at from the perspective of; (a) ‘…Effective Management: (b) …Necessity and ability in creating an enabling work environment, necessary for stability within the workplace: (c) …Incentivized reward to workers to encourage a deeper sense of commitment to the call of duty, that often transcends into greater productivity: and (d) …Good human, inter-personal and working relations.’


A wrong committed against the citizenry by one ‘Cabinet Minister,’ by virtue of the principle of ‘Collective Responsibility,’ is a wrong committed by every ‘Portfolio Minister.’ There shall be no flawed perception of the ‘Oath of Office.’ Without ambiguities, it states for ‘Members of Cabinet to Remember; ‘…We do solemnly swear, that ‘We’ will; (i) ‘…Honour; (ii) …Uphold; and (iii) …Preserve the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda and the Law; and that (iv) …We will conscientiously; (v) …Impartially; and (vi) …To the best of our ability discharge our respective duties as ‘Ministers of Information and Labour;’ and (vii) …We will do right to all manner of people without fear or favor, affection or ill-will’ [Oath of Office].


It has always been to the knowledge of those that managed, that disappointment and frustration, often provoked protestation. That which can be said without fear of contradiction is that in her twilight days, retired educator, Cooking Magic famed icon and Government Senator, the illustrious ‘Gwendolyn Moreen Tongue DCN, OH, MBE’ [1923 – 2012], was impelled to march to the ‘Prime Minister’s Office’ [Queen Elizabeth Highway]. Though she was a ‘Pensioner,’ and her daughter ‘Erna-May’ was then a ‘Banker,’ she appeared to have shown no dependence upon any other source of income, but that of entitlements, then due and payable [2004 -2012].


None may deny the impact the vexed and contentious issue of non-payment of ‘Benefits’ often has on the human psyche.  None may also deny its impact on the quality of life. That which they desired to be better positioned with ‘Disposable Income,’ was reported to be the long overdue payment of ‘Overtime Benefits.’ Being subjected to harsh working conditions and social distress, these workers have been appealing for payment that may have undoubtedly, brought them some measure of respite. Though not necessarily functioning in ideal working conditions, the ‘ABS Workers’ may still have been seen as a happy group of employees cohesively-bonded, and closely and working together.


Those so assigned ‘Managerial Responsibilities,’ not only shall do so in the interest of ‘Employers,’ but also have a duty of care and concern for the welfare of those they lead and manage. Training and research have revealed certain practices. As it affects workers, none may deny the adverse effect on morale and productivity, as well as on relations between ‘Management and Workers.’ It is instructive to note, that not infrequently public workers are impelled to openly express displeasure with existing working conditions. Not infrequently they have also been forced to participate in protestations. Likened to their ‘Employers,’ they desire ‘Managers’ to discharge their managerial duties in keeping with their assigned responsibilities.


Researching for relevant information on ‘Managerial Responsibilities,’ this was unearthed; ‘…In keeping with the need for management to be productive and responsive to workers and the society in general, good management practices, as well as industrial relations policies that have the confidence of all, must be among the major objectives of management’ [1976: Jamaica: Labour Relations Code: Page 5]. On the issue of work-related benefits, this might just be enlighteningly helpful to the ‘Management’ of workplaces that seemed dogged by industrial upheavals.’


It was also revealed that ‘…The question of payment for work done is often a contentious area in industrial relations.’ It has long been suggested that ‘…Salaries, Wages and work-related ‘Benefits,’ shall not only have an agreeable system, but shall also be in conformity with statutory provisions’ [1976: JLRC: Page 13]. There may be no qualms about ‘Benefits’ reasonably and amicably negotiated and mutually agreed between ‘Representative Unions and Employers.’ Frequently, such was made to become ‘Contentious,’ when either the employer or manager’ starved for scruples. Invariably they have caused the wrath of employees to be descended upon the workplaces with grievous consequences. If such has any relevance to that currently obtains at ‘ABS Radio and Television,’ then such seems undeniably true.


In the case of the ‘ABS Workers, there appears to have been no ‘Gesture of Conciliation.’ That which continues to occupy the attention of the workers left behind has been the substantial accrued benefits. When it became obvious that no resolution was in sight, some ‘Fifty Frustrated Workers’ took to the street. In protestation, they reportedly marched from the ‘North Street-headquartered ‘Antigua Trade and Labour Union (AT&LU)’ office to their ‘Cross Street ‘ABS TV Workplace’ [Observer: December 18, 2018]. Desperately hoping to bring closure, they mounted another protestation, this time outside the workplace. This was said to have been in response to Letters written to some ‘30 Protesting workers,’ denying them 7 days of wages’ [Observer: February 23, 2019].


Consequent upon these, ‘Managers’ shall know that ‘Workers,’ shall be treated right. They shall also know that spiteful, vindictive actions or contemptuous behavior, are as bad to amicable working relations, as it is not addressing the issue at hand. Not only that, they also have reasonable expectations. These were not to be overwhelmed with disappointment, discontent and frustration. Clearly, the Labour Commissioner appeared to have lacked the ability in bringing the parties to commonality of understanding. Then instead of reaching common ground, the ‘Labour Minister’ appeared to have found himself inescapably jammed between a ‘rock and a hard place.’


Reflecting upon ‘Life, Times and Attributes of Auntie Gwen,’ she has always shown her love of humanity. She was compassionate, as she was helping and caring.’ Though she was not necessarily an industrialist, she was firm in her beliefs, conviction and commitments. She had displayed a steely resolve that however negligible, whatever ‘Retirement Benefits’ she had accrued, and worth ‘Marching and Fighting’ for. Likened to ‘Pensioners,’ she also believed that all ‘Workers’ shall enjoy benefits due to them for their labour. With such belief, she has left a ‘Legacy’ of a ‘Fighting Spirit.’ This was made demonstrably clear, when she joined distraught and discontented ‘Pensioners’ in protestation over ‘non-payment of their ‘Pension Benefits.’


In the course of human existence and endeavor, adversity and disappointment, often loom. Thus, under the blazing mid-morning sun, joining scores of other ‘Senior Citizens,’ they marched expectedly for the much needed ‘Pension Benefits.’ Making her presence seen and felt among protesting ‘Senior Citizens’ not only did she march purposefully, but also with a sense of ‘Pride and Dignity.’ All that they ever wanted and demanded from the governing ‘Baldwin-Spencer’ administration, was the ‘Smallest of Pittances.’ Yet in face of disappointment and futility, they suffered indignities of being scoffed at, and rudely referred to as ‘Rag Tags.’ Likened to current drought conditions that have helped in drying out the ‘Surface Water’ at ‘Potworks Dam,’ back then, the conventional revenue streams had all dried up. The financially-depressed ‘National Treasury’ and ‘Social Security Board’ could not have facilitated payment that had been long overdue.


It is to be noted that one of the ‘Founding Constitutional Principles’ states; ‘…Whereas the people of Antigua and Barbuda respect the ‘Principles of Social Justice,’ and therefore, believe that; (a) ‘…The operation of their economic system should result in the material resources of their community being so distributed as to serve the common good; (b) …That there should be adequate means of livelihood for all; (c) …Labour should not be exploited; and (d) …That no person should be forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions’ [CO: 1981: Principle: B].


Not very long ago, then ‘Information and Public Administration Minister (ABS/RTV),’ ‘Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro’ was accused of using the pejorative term ‘Rag Tag.’ This the Minister emphatically denied. Incidentally, they were never told when payment would have been made.  They remained undaunted and steadfast, pressing only for that which was due to them. The populace however, and by extension, the electorate revulsed at the use of such term to those that may have been her grandparents. That which she has never denied, was the use of the vernacular; ‘Teck dat in yuh Nenen.’


Whatever it meant then, and now, whether or not they had taken umbrage for any of these terms, at the ‘June 2014 General Election,’ the electorate dropped something in her ‘Nenen’ [2004-2009: 2009-14]. This was at a time when those that may have marginally passed the ‘Prime of Life,’ reportedly hurled derogatory insults at the marching ‘Pensioners,’ then demanding payment of accrued benefits. In spite of the issues currently facing ‘ABS General Manager, Erna-Mae Brathwaite,’ workers, though disappointed over her handling of their ‘Overtime Benefits,’ have never accused her of any such calling.


However, under her ‘Managerial Stewardship,’ workers have not only become depressingly disgruntled, but also aggrieved. Given the shared experiences of the ‘Pensioners,’ it appears very likely, that even against her very daughter, ‘Erna-Mae Brathwaite,’ ‘Auntie Gwen’ may feel compelled to invoke her ‘Fighting Spirit’ in the ‘ABS Workers.’ Clearly ‘Half Loved and ‘Half Despised,’ they asked their ‘General Manager,’ ‘Why has the Management forsaken us?’ It was not clear who might be haunted by the ‘Spirit of Auntie Gwen,’ but it could never be the discontented and displaced workers of ‘ABS.’


There are those that have contended that only a conducive working environment and speedy and amicable resolutions to the issues of welfare, may bring respite to the frustrated ‘ABS workers.’. That which ‘Auntie Gwen’s Daughter Erna-Mae’ may not have known, was that her beloved mother ‘Gwendolyn Tonge’ and the nation’s ‘Auntie Gwen’ was very much aware of this ‘Principle.’ Though she has long been transitioned to a place where there shall be no ‘begging, stressing, marching or protesting’ for anything, it was obvious that she may have left a ‘Fighting Spirit’ in the dedicated workers of the state-owned and run entities called the ‘Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting and Television Services (ABS Radio/Television).


Ironically, workers are now protesting against her daughter, now holding the ‘Privileged Position’ of ‘General Manager’ for delay of ‘Payable Benefits.’ Research has revealed that even as the workers had; ‘…Entreated and implored; …Sighed and cried; …Bawled and snarled, not even a ‘Witch’ would come to their assistance. Moreover, unlike the apparent feisty former parliamentarian, the ‘General Manager’ has expressed no aspirations in vying for elective office. That which might be said of her, is that she fully understood ‘Banking.’ In this field of endeavor, she has reportedly acquitted herself exceedingly well. Culturally, research has shown that she had represented the ‘Sunny Side Tutorial School’ in a ‘Teenage Pageant’ [1973]. She had reportedly performed to the delight of an appreciative audience.  On the issue of ‘Overtime Payment’ to workers, she was yet to cause most to smile happily from the ‘ABS Studios’ to the financial institutions in St. Johns.’


Researching for this commentary, this quote suddenly popped up. It states; ‘…The ability to work well with others, is one of the most important assets you can possess’ [Laura Lyons]. Both ‘General Kurt Von Hammerstein-Equord and Laura Lyons’ could neither have been speaking to past or present ‘General Managers,’ at the state-owned and run entities, ‘Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting and Television Services (ABS Radio/TV).’ Instructively, while on advanced overseas ‘Managerial Training’ for top organizational positions,’ the; (i) ‘…British: (ii) Canadian; and (c) …American Training Institutions,’ have all made reference to a particular historic ‘Quote.’ Research also provides another interesting ‘Quote’ by ‘German General, Kurt Von Hammerstein-Equord [1878 -1943].


It is clear that they intended to develop the ‘Perceptive Skills’ of future organizational leaders. Such skills often guide informed ‘Managerial Decisions.’ It might just be helpful to those with the authority to make or influence managerial and behavioral change. Cognizance of the unpredictable nature of human, and more particularly, the invariably impulsive behavior of military personnel, for all intents and purposes, he reportedly indicated; ‘…I divide my officers into four classes as follows; (i) ‘…The Clever: (ii) …The Industrious: (iii) …The Lazy; and (iv) …The Stupid.’ No one knew exactly why until the instructors explained the rationale.


Students were then told that after very careful assessment, the ‘General’ paired these traits for situationally applicable purposes. In his ‘Strategic Assessment,’ the ‘General’ considered; (i) ‘…Clever and Industrious,’ that such officer will be appointed to the general staff; while (ii); The ‘Lazy and Stupid’ can be effectively used not just for any purpose, but for a specific one. Given such reasoning, this appears suggestive that such officer may be easily expended and replaced, either as circumstances dictate, or situations demand. Then (iii) ‘…He believed that the ‘Clever and Lazy’ officer, qualifies for the highest leadership post. He was of the view that such person has the requisite mental clarity and capacity for making difficult decisions.’


The officer he had sufficiently assessed as (iv) ‘Stupid and Industrious,’ had not fit the ‘Vision of the Military.’  Sensing immense danger, he declared; ‘…This officer must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous’ [1933: Wikipedia: General Kurt Von Hammerstein-Equord]. Today, in many organizations, institutions, private and public entities, there are many ‘Managers’ with these traits. They have made, and continue to make life difficult, as well as creating situations that make work more harrowing for those seen as non-subservient and less unexploitable.


While some workers often harbor certain ‘Illusions of Worker’s Rights,’ they too have responsibilities and obligations to their ‘Employers.’ From professional training, knowledge and research, ‘Employees’ shall know that ‘…All workers have both an individual and collective responsibility to their ‘Employers’ to perform the ‘Contract of Service’ to the best of their ability.’ Universally, a functional and critical role of ‘Representative Unions’ is this; ‘…Ensuring workers dedication to the principle of productive work for the good of all’ [Jamaica: Labour Relations Code: Page 6].


Even so, the ‘Primary Responsibility’ of a ‘Trade Union,’ is to ensure that employee’s actions do not prejudice their general well-being, particularly health and safety and that which often been viewed as contentious-earnings and work-related benefits.’ It needs no instruction to know that workers not only vest authority in ‘Unions’ for the performance of their industrial functions, but shall also provide financial support for their representative services in pay negotiations or settlement, as well as for dispute resolutions.’ Such speaks neither to illusion nor delusion.


There shall be little doubt, that with improved programming and under a management team of ‘Erna-Mae Brathwaite and Garfield Burford,’ workers at the state-owned entities ‘Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting and Television Services (ABS),’ will have seen vast improvements within these entities. Undoubtedly, the former will have brought to the workplace advanced ‘Managerial Skills.’ Conversely, the latter will have brought his professional knowledge, experience and expertise to the fields of ‘Broadcasting and Journalism.’ That which seemed to have been nagging ‘Management Problems,’ have been easily identified as; (i) ‘…An un-enabling work environment; (ii) …Conditions of service that begs for revisitation; and the apparent most contentious has been (iii) …Non-payment of Overtime Benefits.’ These were said to be issues provoked by a ‘Hostile Work Environment.’


More often than not, it has always been troubling to ‘Managers’ that functioned in isolation and without clarity of understanding of human nature. That which was often seen as fueling resentment or causes ‘Seeds of Discord’ to be germinated and mushroom into thorny conflicts, was either ‘Management’s inability or refusal to reconcile differences or to solve conflicts and disputes expeditiously and amicably. It all started some time, after the middle of ‘June 2014.’ They were all forced to contend with a ‘Management’ that was said to be as uncaring as they have been insensitive, uncompassionate and acrimoniously victimizing.


For some time now, the plight of the ‘ABS Workers,’ appeared not have been given the requisite administrative and/or managerial attention. This was said to have triggered consternation in peeved workers, when the issue of ‘Overtime Benefits’ wend its way to the ‘Industrial Court.’ Consequent upon constant rambling of discontent being featured in the local media and that which was reportedly applied by the ‘German General,’ neither ‘Information Minister Melford Nicholas,’ nor ‘Labour Minister Steadroy Benjamin’ shall encounter difficulties in identifying persons with traits of ‘Stupidity and Industry.’


For just over 7 years, the non-payment of ‘Overtime Benefits,’ seemed to have driven to the edge of impatience and intolerance. Not only that the ‘ABS Workers’ appeared to have seen more ‘Woes’ descended upon them, but also their miseries appear to have grown in leaps and bounds. Summing up their position, they seemed to have become ‘Demoralized; …Disillusioned; and Dissatisfied.’ It may have been for this reason that ‘Auntie Gwen’s’ invisible ‘Spirit,’ has spurred them into action.


Though the apparent long drawn out ‘Industrial Battle,’ bears no similarity in nature, scope and magnitude, it still appears capable of being likened to the ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin’s’ ordered military invasion of the ‘Ukrainian’ nation, and the savagery being unleashed upon its innocent population [BBC: February 24, 2022]. In the case of the affected ‘ABS Workers,’ in a Pandemic that calls for adequacy of resources, particularly, a sufficiency of ‘Disposable Income,’ none may deny the psychological impact, some things often play on the human mind. Seemingly, if it becomes necessary for them to march from ‘…McNish Mountain and Boggy Peak’ to St. John [Dr. Errol Cort: Budget Presentation: December 30, 2005],’ her ‘Spirit’ shall be with them.


Lack of understanding of human nature, was often seen through mounting complaints, questionable work ethics, chaos and confusion, indiscipline and an untenable malaise of ‘Absenteeism.’ These often suggest poor ‘Managerial Skills’ and signals worker’s desire for managerial change. The ‘ABS Workers,’ said to have been incessantly calling upon the ‘Management’ to bring closure to a ‘Long Running Dispute,’ have seen their calls go unanswered. This is not only part of the functional responsibility of effective Managers,’ but also those with ‘Ministerial Responsibilities,’ individually or collectively, with an appreciation for the human dignity and worth, may have added to their financial miseries.


Given the workers’ resolve, made bureaucratically difficult, and compounded by apparent ‘Management and Ministerial’ impotence, ‘Labour Union’ representatives and their clients, have all contended that the ‘Principles of Social Justice’ appeared to have been observed more in breaches, than managerial, administrative and ministerial best practices. This seems clearly contradictory to the subscribed ‘Oath of Office’ by; (i) ‘Information Minister Melford Nicholas; and (ii) …Labour Minister Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin.’


Moreover, it starkly contradicts ‘Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s’ well-documented manifestoed pledge; ‘Dedicated to Serve and Empower’ [June-2014: Strategic Vision to Rebuild and Empower’ [Cover Photo]. That which appears most disconcerting to the ‘ABS Workers’ may have been the ‘non-inspiring and non-empowering’ way the issue of ‘Overtime Benefits’ has been handled. For whatever, reasons, those positioned to observe certain practices, attitudes and behaviors,’ were often seen as either impotent or incompetent.


While there often comes a time when ‘Gods’ become ‘Tyrants’ and ‘Goddesses’ become ‘Witches,’ there also comes a time when not only such reign shall end, but also when all victimization and oppression must cease. Research has shown that having attracted of some of the more intelligent persons, conditions of service have seen a steady ‘Exodus of Workers’ from these entities. On entry to the workplace, no matter the managerial embracement, with expressions frequently disguised by hypocrisy, the new worker invariably, develops his own feelings about the ‘Manager.’ This may have been the experiences of several ‘ABS Workers.’


It has also been widely accepted that where practicable, they shall assist workers in achieving desirable and set goals. It has always been the human experience that when evidence suggests that Managers managed by rigidity in application of Rules, seen as stringent, the disenchanted worker always know that it was time to ‘Take Flight.’ This has been the universal experience of many workers. That which some ‘Managers’ may not have factored in their ‘Management Plan,’ has always been the ‘Reasonable Expectations’ workers hold for themselves. That which often appeared to have compounded some situations, has often been unconventional style of ‘Management,’ insensitivity and uncaring attitude.


As there may be no authoritative and effective leadership, workers often feel disenchanted, demoralized and discontented. As it relates to ‘ABS Radio and Television,’ while these may or may not have been the experiences of some workers, it begs the fundamental question;’ ‘Why was the ‘ABS’ Management Team failed to retain them? A short list has shown that among the departees have been veteran newscasters ‘Andy Liburd; …Phil George; …Anderson Edgehill; …Leon Norville; …Elisa Leah Graham; …Alciana Tittle; …Amar Spencer; …Patrice Martin; and Jamoul Francis.’ Except those on inter-departmental transfers, the others have all left gracefully and peacefully.


When workers resigned, whatever the reasons for so doing, none may deny that among a ‘Manager’s Responsibilities’ to his/her employer is one that speaks to ‘High Productivity.’ This necessarily requires a conducive environment, highly motivated, competent and efficient workers. The workplace has never been the place, neither for inefficiency, nor mediocrity. But ‘Management must give assurances of; ‘…Security of tenure; …Ensure health and safety and be quick in addressing ‘Matters of welfare.’ These are inclusive of timely payment of work-related benefits; …Training; …Professional development; and …Opportunities for advancement.’.


Those familiar with ‘Management Principles,’ have argued that the difficulty appeared to have been an inability to retain these individuals on staff with the stabilizing features of ‘Security of Tenure’ or ‘Permanency of Employment.’ French industrialist ‘Henri Fayol,’ has listed some ‘14 Principles,’ specifically to guide those with privilege positions to lead. Universally, he shared the view that ‘…Employees often deliver their best under ideally suited conditions and sensitive and compassionate, understanding and approachable ‘Managers.’ He posited that; ‘…It is management duty to assure every employee ‘Security of Tenure.’


Research has revealed that though some unidentified workers have been paid. However, it was also reported that the vast majority have not. This could not be ascertained or confirmed. It was obvious that non-payment had stumbled over many hurdles. Some were identified as Managerial; …Administrative; …Ministerial; and …Bureaucratic.’ Firstly, the issue was allowed to stumble its way through to the; (a) ‘…Labour Commissioner: (b) …Labour Minister; and (c) …To the Industrial Court.’ However, apart from the unresolved issue of non-payment of the long overdue ‘Overtime Benefits,’ ‘Management’s attitude and a climate of hostility and fear’ within the ‘ABS Entities’ was said to have been the most untenable. These works, believe may have been most vexatious to the ‘Spirit of Auntie Gwen.’ Managers, therefore, shall respect the ‘Dignity and Worth’ of all workers. They shall also endeavor to create an enabling work environment, conducive to functional cooperation and high productivity and workers retainability. In the instant case, not only her ‘Spirit’ shall continue strive with the hearts of workers,’ but also her ‘LEGACY’ will always be accorded remembrance and respect by those her ‘Fighting Spirit’ has inspired. They have all wished that the ‘Name and Spirit of Auntie Gwen be remembered and lives on; …Long live her daughter. Erna-Mae; and …Long live ABS Radio and Television.’  ***


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  1. As soon as I saw the author I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read the article. He insists on a long, drawn- out writing style with unnecessary highlighting of words and it’s just a pain. Even on FB when responding to comments, people would tell him they don’t understand what he’s saying and it’s like his brain lacks the elasticity to adjust.



      Besides, was never intended for those that wish to remain ‘…IGNORANT.’

      Last time visited this Page, a ‘…CHIMPANZEE’ wrote the same darn thing.



      Let ‘…Ignorance and Stupidity’ prevail.

  2. Mr. Pompey is a pain in the rear end. Even on the radio, he has to spell every word then pronounce every word as if he is speaking to infants. I just can’t take him, he weary me. He needs to learn it’s not what you say, is how you say it and bring it across to your readers, audiences, and listeners. He act as if he alone went to school and the rest of us are duffers.


      Here comes a ‘…Whistling Kettle.’

      Then what? (a) ‘…Tea: (b) …Coffee: or (c) …BUSH TEA?’

      RATHER, ‘…Bush Tea.’ WEL: ‘…
      Let the ‘…Kettle Whistle.’

      Neva go dat weh to gee, ah leff pane’ (Vernacular) .

      ADVICE: ‘…You may wish to check with a ‘…Physician’ for a diagnosis for ‘…Hemorrhoid.’

      Blessed Wednesday, …YVETTE.’

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