Cabinet to discuss furloughing port workers and implementing voluntary redundancy

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Daily Observer: Prime Minister Gaston Browne made some stark remarks in Parliament on Tuesday, as he scolded the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) for encouraging port workers to take industrial action over unpaid bonuses.

As a result of the threat to withhold their services, Browne said Cabinet would be discussing reinstating voluntary redundancy and will have to consider furloughing some of the 250 port workers.

Browne claims that the port only needs 80 of the 250 workers currently employed in order to function efficiently.

He revealed that when his government took office in 2014, it made the decision to suspend a voluntary retrenchment programme which had been in the works by the former administration.

The prime minister, who said that many of the workers were highly paid but unskilled, told parliament that “we recognized that if we were to retrench them or allow them to go on voluntary retrenchment, that many of them would not be able to command a job with a similar remuneration within the private sector or even other areas of the public sector. So, in order to protect them for themselves Mr Speaker, we literally asked the port to withdraw that voluntary separation package that we were offering them”.

Browne said the workers should recognize that they are in a position of privilege and that “there is an existing rationale to lay them off”.

“I think they’re making a mistake because if they lose their work at the port, then clearly Mr Speaker they cannot command even half the amount that they are making now”, he touted.

He said the possible redundancies could be further compounded by the elimination of jobs when the port modernization project is completed.

“We’re now investing $250 million to modernize the port; it means that there will be greater mechanization, even the ships that are brining goods to the island now, Mr Speaker, they are mechanized in such a way that it will eliminate a lot of the manual labour. So it means there will be greater redundancies and the union has a responsibility to be honest with its workers and to advise them about risks. The risk of losing their work and their vulnerability,” he explained.

The prime minister also chided unions across the island, noting that it may be time to examine the relevance of trade unions, and told Parliament that some union workers cannot separate politics from national interest.

“If they cannot provide leadership for their members and all they can do is to be disruptive then they do not have a place in the development in this country in the 21st Century, then it means they have become irrelevant, unfit for purpose,” he remarked.

“We have had a serious imbalance in the system where workers believe that they are the only ones who have rights, who have profits in the interest of certain companies, even in the private sector,” Browne added.

He made a final appeal to workers at the port on Tuesday, asking that they reconsider their choice to start industrial action. The ABWU had given the government until December 15th to pay a 3.5 percent bonus as stipulated in their collective agreements. — Antigua Observer

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22 COMMENTS

  1. PM call them out for who they are…UPP operatives heading union. The gall of these union (UPP operative) people show that rather than in 40 years time, they do not deserve to govern this country PERIOD.

  2. I’m not a Gastonite but if what the Prime Minister is saying is accurate then the Union is not been upfront about what is at stake . This union must a joke . You have a previous agreement in place where so many of these people legally SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALREADY TERMINATED and you’re strong arming for a bonus which they don’t have to give and is based on profitability .THEY ARE LEADING YOU TO THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE .

  3. No article regarding the contribution from the Leader of the Opposition in parliament yesterday? The PM is NOT the only MP who spoke.

  4. While you are looking at the Port Mr. PM you might as well look at the entire government aparatus. The public sector is overstaffed and under performing.
    Barbados had to take that bitter pill albeit under the pressure of the IMF. Covid is the right time to reorganize every compnay and right staff them. You will not get an oppertunity like this again.

    • @sideline
      To think that you would suggest getting rid of workers during this covid pandemic. You really have a sick mind. Guess you don’t have to worry about your next meal and mortgage payments.

      • Especially when those very same people in times of Covid want to strike for something they have not deserved. Yes you can call me what you want but reality is they are treatning to let us all go hungry. If they refuse to offload containers what you think will happen in the supermarkets. People will rush to get goods and before you know it we will have a major crisses on our hand. These are careless people and you need to treat hem the same way.

    • @From The Sidelines…it’s being a long time, that “the public sector is overstaffed and under performing.”
      The public sector became the dumping ground for party supporters.
      If the Gaston Browne administration does as you’re suggesting, the crime rate will rise. All this then becomes food for the Opposition parties.
      This should have being done years ago.

      • One has to start somewhere. How come the same thing didn’t happen in Barbados. You have a problem that the can is being kicked down to road by every politica party year after year and none has the balls to deal with it. Mia won her election by a landslide and therefore was not afraid to do something so drastic in the first year of her term. I keep telling people like Tabor that I do not agree with Gaston on everything. And this is one of them. Bite the bullet a solution will come for those that a let go. Just like how Covid has made lots of them unemployed, the fittest will survive and see how people has become innovative and their entrepreneurial spirit has awoken. Only the lazy ones are looking for handouts.

        • @From The Sidelines…I wouldn’t compare Antigua, Barbuda & REDONDA to Barbados in terms of “culture(habits and norms).”
          While there are similarities, the mindset is very different.
          As you are fully aware, the Antigua, Barbuda & REDONDAN culture has changed drastically over the past twenty years, due to migration in and out of the Nation.
          Just as is the case with the Public Sector in Our Nation, looking for handouts and underperforming, the youths and those in their prime(30’s and 40’s) do not have the Entrepreneurial Spirit and drive(the drug trade and sex worker sectors are exceptions), with patience, determination etc for the long haul required to be successful.
          Education and a shift in the paradigm of thinking are essential for the Nation to achieve what your referencing, in terms of Barbados.
          I’ll tell you a great place to start in terms of the paradigm of thinking. The #Spirit of the Nation in the early days when Sir Andy Roberts and Sir Vivian Richards first became International sport figures. The Nation need that #Spirit to rise again.

          • Soemtime I wonder why it is OK to take islands like Barbados as our yeardstick and other times we try to say they are so much diffrent than us. No imperical evidence that you provide for this statement anyway. But eductation will eventually change one’s view of the world around them. And whereas higher eduction in the past was only accessible for a choosen few in this country, Barbados because of the UWI had that advantage. And with regards to entrepreneurial spirit, it sometimes takes a bad situation to bring that out in humans. That has been proven through history. Its like saying only the fittest will survive. Covid has released that spirit for many of our countrymen/women. Just open your eyes and see the many young entrepreneurs that have showed up lately. Even LIAT workers have come up new ways to make a living that they would not have taken the step before. A taxi driver from the airport started selling produce at the road side, he never thaught it was such a lucrative business. He didn’t sit down nd cried that the airport is closed and has nothing to do. When people take responsibility for their own situation they will survive. (Not like our lazy Barbudans that years after hurricane still waiting for handouts to build a home).
            And as they say without a vision the people perish. It is that vision of bringing a University to our shores that will have an imense effect on our young folks and therefore the next generation.
            Confucius Quotes:
            If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
            Gaston seems to have followed that wisdom. The UWI is here to educate us for hundreds of years to come. I look forward in celebrating our first graduates.

        • @From The Sidelines…phat man, as a friendly reminder you’re speaking to an ‘ole time choir member, bellowing your #Tune like a ROARING lion in this concrete jungle many blue moons ago.
          I have no idea, if you were around from the days of the Yahoo Group – Ah Antigua Me Cum From to CARIBARENA to Observer.
          However, your present choir member Tenman can attest to the fact, that what your saying regarding Entrepreneurs to Tertiary Education to include agriculture in particular from the HEMP Industry and the solvable issues regarding water have being thoroughly thrashed out. Tenman, I hope that the Monument at the Tamarind Tree is still being maintained, as per your promise(fools comfort)!

          However, From The Sidelines what you have failed to mention, and MUST, MUST, MUST be included in the equation are The Trades(Landscaper to Roofer). The reason why is that, the Trades are like the framework, the skeleton, the #Blockchain which supports the flesh.
          While there are several Trade Schools now operating in the Nation, and several of the high schools offer these programs, investments in these are still vital from handling tools to manufacturing them (a tool in your hand is simply used as an extension of your thought process, to complete the task(s) at hand. Plus #CERTIFICATION in these areas will allow for easier movement of this sector of the work force, to places like your beloved Barbados.

          Spliff dun roll! Time fu go bang sum ducuna and trimmings, den wash dat dung wid some #SorrelCider.

  5. I have an idea.Why Cabinet do not furlough themselves.What the hell do they do.They earned high paying salaries.They paid for virtually nothing.What do they do? By the way.When Gaston Browne gets on his radio station.He speaks out about others and their personal finances.He would say Tom,Dicky and or Mary have this amount of monies in their Bank accounts.How would Gaston Browne know that? Unless he has access to all of the people personal finances. Or there are leakers inside the Banks spilling their guts to him like a leaking oil tanker.I for one is very cautious. As to the amount of money I keep in Antigua and Barbuda Banks.Because I do not want Gaston Browne going on his radio station and calling my name.I can say it.Because I have a recording of him calling out persons names and their accounts balances.Now they are borrowing from ACB.Is ACB their new found ATM.Please ACB do not end up like ABIB.He is saying that 11% on that loan is too high.I say to him.That is what would be charged to anyone with BAD,BAD,BAD,CREDIT SCORE and the inabilities to repay said loan.I could loan you my credit score.It is AAA.

    • Further, are Antiguans aware that the Govt is saying that it does not have money to pay pensioners, bonuses, gratuities, etc, but it has money to pay for de Luxe bailout? Are they aware that the monies to pay these are tied up in the PM’s vanity – LIAT? Are they aware that while they are groaning and crying for their money, Barbados and St Vincent were paid to ensure LIAT gets to fly there? Don’t they see they are not a priority for the PM?
      Or are they seeing all these things, but like the Republican senators, afraid to say cra na na? Are they aware that while they are making excuses for him they are the ones suffering and will suffer more in the future?
      One more question – is there an evil spell over Antigua?

  6. This is down right foolishness. Your dictatorship stink SIR and I hope it na come back to bite you in your button. When people complain and ask for whatever is are dully owed you attack them. Remember they are the ones paying your salary. Too much disadvantage in this country. I am sick of all this injustice.

    • Too much injustice

      How about the PM stop collecting a paycheck during this crisis? He bragged a few months ago that he was so wealthy he didn’t need his salary.

      Antigua has their own version of America’s ridiculous orange clown dictator.

  7. Few months ago they threw their hands up to purchase digicel.

    Why only now we are hearing about the port only need 80 of the 250 staffs?

    Covid or no covid they find money for what they want ,when they want .

    I believe if it was a bit more dialogue with the workers earlier instead of dropping a bombshell in regards to their outstanding money owed things will be different

    Show the port records and come to an amicable decision you cant get all but could get a fraction now since revenue is down I believe would be more accepted.

    We need to be more professional

  8. workers and threatening their livelihoods because they stood up for themselves

    Stay tuned for the next episode of The Misadventures of PM Gaston Clown

    • If there is bullying its the workers that are guilty of that. They are not standing up for themselves they are trying to hold us hostage. When essential services strike the only remedy the government has is to send in the army. Offloadig containers that bring the necessary goods for us so that we can eat get medication etc is an essential service and the portworkers need to understand their responsibility and don’t treaten to strike each time they do not get what they want. And he sad thing is its always around christmas time. Time when we need them the most. Aitraffic Controller also use to strike during the Christmas time when their services are urgently needed.
      And you know what hurts me the most. During the lockdown they got their full pay eventhough hardly any ship came in the port. These re unreasonable people. To demand a bonus in these hard times when everywhere in the world countries are suffering from this pandemic.

  9. To him who much is given, much is expected. Who in the kitchen feel the heat.

    This is no way to treat the citizens of this country, especially hard working ones. Intimidation has it’s time and place, and this is not it.

    The autocratic management style of the government is and has been a serious concern. We bash the UN, IMF, World Bank and other major global corporations for their bullying tactics, but operate the same way with our people.

    It is not an easy task to manage a country, but transparency goes a long way, especially in times of crises. Where is the money coming from to pay C.O. Williams who is now doing road rehabilitation work on Pares Road stretching to Willikies? Why a Bajan Contractor? The money will go to Barbados. Why not a local contractor who will put back most of the money in our economy?

    I often hear people lash out telling their younger subordinates to ‘grow up! be an adult!’. But that’s terrible advice. Have you seen adults lately? Especially those with influence? They make little children look bad.

    We are in this together and we CAN do much better!

  10. This should have been done 30 years ago! This useless PM indicted himself when he said only 80 of the 250 port employees are actually needed run the port efficiently. This is criminal. The ALP continues to employ thousands of people the public sector doesn’t need while issuing thousands of work permits for foreigners to work in the private sector, utter economic madness.

  11. Chester today came back to spill more ofhis garbage on the radio. Don’t know why Darren think he should be given all the time at such a short notice. He himself has not good questions to ask cause he is not prepared. But I notice the goal post has moved. It’s now that some staffmembers, about 25 of them seems to have gotten a exgratia payment for extra work done during the Covid period. One can clearly see here that there was a distinction made. Now that is what you call jealocy when one set of people are rewarded differently then others. It reminds me of “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard”. All got the same pay but some worked a few hours while some worked a whole day.
    The union lead by Chester has political motive and that is bad. Bad forthe workers who are being used as pawn. In the end if they lose their jobs Chester will still have his.
    These types of situations should have been a easily win win situation. Sign a deferred benefit agreement. That way everyone wins. And perhaps a small xmas token for the staff to take home. But you start with putting knife on the troath of the employer and treathen them with industrial actions. For what? Even the blind can see it is all political.

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