Press Release

ABWU Condemns PM Browne’s Union Busting Threats in LIAT Severance Matter

Published On: Apr 26, 2024

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union takes note of Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s most recent statements regarding the LIAT 1974 severance matter. Browne continues his attempts to undermine the Union’s role and disregard the workers’ rights to representation and collective bargaining.

This protracted severance battle waged against the workers by the Prime Minister has exposed the fundamental issue at play: that the Prime Minister does not accept that severance is a fundamental right for all workers and that workers and their representatives must have a say in determining a reasonable settlement.

Moreover, this is not a political issue as the Prime Minister has tried to portray it to the workers and the public. Our mandate as a Union is to protect and defend the rights of our members irrespective of which political party forms the Government. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister understands this very well, but in the absence of any reasonable argument as to why the workers’ severance is not a priority for his Government, he has no choice but to deflect and attempt to reduce this matter to a political squabble.

David Massiah - ABWU General Secretary

It is beyond shameful that the Prime Minister of what is supposed to be a modern, progressive and democratic country, would blatantly announce via the airwaves his union busting attempts to completely disregard the workers' legally recognised bargaining agent. Nowhere in the free world is such behavior tolerated, and we will NOT accept it here in Antigua and Barbuda. Every progressive society is one where workers’ rights are protected and Unions are seen as partners in development and not “impediments” as the Prime Minister described in his statements.

As such, his statements are totally unacceptable and do not respect the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards. We remind the Prime Minister that ILO convention No. 98 of 1949 asserts and protects the workers’ Right to Organise and to Collective Bargaining.

Again, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union has no political gripe with the Prime Minister. What we take issue with is his fundamentally warped view of workers’ rights. We insist that workers and their representatives must be respected and consulted, and severance is a fundamental right.

Prime Minister Browne continues to bully the workers of LIAT into accepting a significantly reduced offer of 32% of severance down from 50%. Where is the reasonableness in this offer? Since neither the Government nor the Court Appointed Administrator was willing to entertain any discussions with the Union, it is no surprise that they have arrived at such a ridiculous and insulting proposal. It further baffles the mind to think that the Prime Minister believes that he could somehow dupe the workers into accepting this offer by “negotiating directly” with them. What the Prime Minister fails to recognise is that these very workers with whom he wishes to “negotiate directly” are themselves the Union. The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union is not an entity that is separate and apart from the workers. Our voice is in fact the voice of the workers; the position we articulate is the position of the workers: that they have a right to 100% severance or a reduced settlement that is mutually agreed upon.


While not surprising, it is somewhat disappointing that the Prime Minister would have spewed such nauseating rhetoric on the heels of Labour Day, a day when workers reflect on and celebrate their contributions to society. It should also be a time when our partners in labour relations — Governments and Employers — acknowledge the progress we’ve made as a society through dialogue and mutual respect. Instead, Prime Minister Browne would wish to use this occasion to intimidate workers and undermine unionism. But we are not dismayed! We assert that the former and current staff of Liat 1974 Ltd still have a right to their severance! No act of the legislature or ill-will on the part of any individual can suspend that right. We again call for dialogue and respect as prerequisites to bringing closure to this matter, even as we anticipate a new era of regional travel.