(Antigua.News) General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) David Massiah, says the workforce faces several global factors that demand immediate consideration.
These include ongoing world conflicts, the significant advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the enduring consequences of climate change, and the challenges posed by inflation.
The Secretary also highlights the game-changing potential of emerging collaborations between the African Union, China, and Russia and the growing connections between Africa and the Caribbean. “
With the advent of powerful computers, increased storage capacity, and faster data processing speed, these machines are displacing workers to automate tasks previously performed by humans. This automation saves time and money and increases efficiency and accuracy,” Massiah said on Sunday during the opening of the union’s Annual Delegates Conference.
Massiah emphasized the importance of having a skilled Communications Officer on the union’s team and advised workers to remain alert.
He also highlighted the significance of government officials embracing AI to bring about positive changes, such as improving healthcare and increasing access to education.
“We are all now being exposed to the threat of global warming. Dangerous heatwaves, Hurricanes, Floods, and Volcanic activities are all taking place and wreaking havoc on the entire region,” he added.
Meanwhile, President of the ABWU Kem Riley, has accused Prime Minister Gaston Browne of launching a series of “unwarranted verbal criticisms” against the union due to their steadfast commitment to championing the rights and benefits of workers.
During his address at the commencement of the union’s 56th Annual Delegates Conference, Riley emphasized the significant role labor activism and unionization have played in bolstering workers’ rights and enhancing their working conditions, underscoring Antigua and Barbuda’s rich history in this regard.
“Let’s not forget that unions have been instrumental in successful negotiations with employers, thus contributing to the country’s overall social, economic, and development. However, notwithstanding all the contributions unions have made to improve living standards, they are attacked and accused of being unreasonable.
“These attacks are primarily driven by a contribution of political and economic factors which are prompting governments to contemplate amending labor laws and regulations that have traditionally protected workers’ rights,” Riley said.
During the event, Riley revealed that the prime minister had openly expressed intentions to employ legal measures to diminish the unions’ influence, primarily by discontinuing the automatic deductions from members and non-members.
Riley further elaborated that the prime minister believes that the unions have gained excessive financial prowess, enabling them to effectively advocate for their members throughout every phase of the industrial relations spectrum.
He highlighted the paradoxical situation where the current government, despite being characterized as a “Labour government,” paradoxically exhibits what Riley deemed “the most aggressive anti-union stance” through its verbal rhetoric and practical actions.
“We are convinced that the government’s attack on trade unions stems from the union’s disagreement with the government’s decision to implement a mandatory vaccination policy during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently the Prime Minister has levied attacks on us here at the ABWU for requesting severance payments for LIAT and CAS workers. The Prime Minister has also attacked us for negotiating better salaries for workers at the port”, Riley said.
He went on to mention that despite these attacks, there has been no deterrent effect on workers’ willingness to join the organization, evident by the ongoing growth in membership.
Meanwhile, Labor Commissioner Eltonia Rojas asserted that in an environment where workers are still being pressured to divide amongst themselves for the advantage of a select few, the significance of institutions like the ABWU remains undiminished. She stressed that, particularly in the current context, the union’s relevance must be sustained more than ever.
“The most vulnerable citizen still needs to be trained, guided, and protected from being taken advantage of. Therefore, you as workers and workers’ representatives, must not lose heart no matter how attractive the offer. Recall that your dedication has helped many families. Hence, it is imperative that to stay the course and train future generations of workers advocates,”
The Labor Commissioner also disclosed details concerning a recent theft incident in which thieves pilfered her valuable personal items. She reached out to those in attendance, expressing her belief that simply involving the police and filing reports might not address the situation adequately.
Rojas also pointed out that a significant portion of the working-age population may not necessarily have a strong inclination towards gainful employment.
“I want to challenge you to help me recruit the rogue bandits that continue terrorizing our people who are working honestly. And I say that because today I showed up out of dedication because I lost some very precious personal items to thieves,” Rojas said.