The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) commends the government of Antigua and Barbuda for harmonizing its legislation on maternity leave with Article 4 of the Maternity Protection Convention 2000 (No. 183) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Notwithstanding, the ABWU wishes to publicly register its disapproval with the government’s lack of consultation with stakeholders on this matter. An amendment of this nature could have benefited from the input of unions and employers organized under the tripartite umbrella of the National Labour Board. However, the Labour Minister, because of his single-minded approach to this matter, has produced an amendment which is not properly synchronized with existing pieces of legislation on maternity leave. Moreover, instead of providing additional relief, the new amendment exacerbates existing discrepancies and further disadvantages mothers.
For example, the extension of the maternity leave period to 14 weeks means that mothers must survive without a full income for a longer period. This is because the 1998 amendment of the Labour Code requires only six weeks payments of maternity benefits by the employer. Consequently, mothers stand to lose up to 40% of their weekly income for a total of eight weeks. In no way can this be in the best interest of the mother. Moreover, while Social Security continues to pay the mother a maternity allowance of 60% of her income, that benefit expires at 13 weeks which leaves the mother with a complete loss of income for the final week of maternity leave.
These crippling discrepancies are precisely the reason why the ABWU insists that a tripartite approach would have resulted in a more holistic treatment of the matter. The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union is therefore calling on the Labour Minister, Steadroy Benjamin, to consider additional amendments that would offer better financial protection to working mothers during this vulnerable period of their lives.
General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union, David Massiah, is challenging the Labour Minister to look more thoughtfully and compassionately at the unique circumstances of mothers.
“Women and mothers form a critical segment of the country’s workforce, and they make an invaluable contribution to the nation’s social and economic development. As such, we believe that
no effort should be spared in ensuring that they are not disadvantaged because of motherhood.” Massiah asserts.