Background of ABWU

The Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) commonly known as the Antigua Workers Union (AWU) was formed out of a dire need for Change from the Totalitarian Leadership of the Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU), which was organized on January 16th, 1939 and registered on March 3rd 1940.

Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union Headquarters

This evolution resulted from concerns of the then Founding AWU members Bro George Walter, Bro Donald Halstead, Bro Keithlyn Smith, Bro Joseph Cornwall and others that the leadership of the AT&LU, who performed dual functions as Union Leaders and the Government of the day, neglected the plight of their membership and workers. Not willing to engage in fruitful and open discussions within their ranks, the AT&LU expelled several of its Industrial Relations Officers in May 1967.

The ousted employees combined their resources and organized the Antigua Workers Union days later on the 16th May, 1967. Understanding the potential of this newly formed body, the Government sought to enact Legislation to prohibit the registration and recognition of any other union apart from the Antigua Trades and Labour Union. Nevertheless the AWU was strategic and creative in its methods and Bro Donald Halstead was able to register the union on the 31st May, 1967 before Parliament convened.

The AWU opened with its first employees, Bro Donald Halstead, Bro Keithlyn Smith and Bro Fitzroy Brann on the 1st June, 1967 at their Union’s office located on Tanner Street.

The First Annual Delegates Conference was held on September 17th, 1967 with its first registered members the Waterfront workers.
The Union’s first official strike was held on June 9th 196 when it fought for the reinstatement of Ms. Janet Jarvis, an employee of Rose Camacho Vegetable Snack Shop.

The AWU established its First village section in Freetown on August 6th 1967 and published the First editorial of its newspaper “The Trumpet” later that month, under the guidance of Bro Theodore Dunning.

The Union’s current Freedom Hall headquarters received its name from its first President Bro Malcolm Daniel on April 13th 1971, and which was later opened on August 12, 1971.

Understanding the importance of an Active, Social Presence, the Union established Cultural and Welfare, Woman Council and Education Committees to strengthen and forward its work. These Committees offered free typing and hotel training classes for the Union’s membership. The Union was also able to establish free dental service for its members in 1972 with the assistance of Dr. Vivin Thorne and Athill.

The Union’s mandate to create better working conditions for its members resulted in various legislations such as the Social Security Scheme, paid Maternity Leave, Severance Pay and shortened work weeks which employees presently enjoy as their rights and benefits. The Union was also instrumental in establishing the Antigua Hotel and Tourist Association Medical Plan and Thrift Fund for its members within the Hospitality sector.

In an attempt to provide better representation for its members, the Union restructured itself into the Administrative and Clerical, Airlines and Aviation, Banks and Insurance, Commercial and Retail, Distribution and Manufacturing, Hotel Restaurant and Catering, Telecommunication, Transportation, Utilities and General Workers Sections. This partnership has led to further training and development of its members.

Over the years the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union pride itself in negotiating some of the best collective agreements locally and regionally.

The Executive Committee headed by the Union’s President has the responsibility of managing the Union between its Annual Delegates Conference and the day to day operations are marshalled by its General Secretary.

The Union’s motto “Unity in Diversity” was created by Bro Raymond Simon.