The headquarters of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) was an epicenter of resistance as dozens gathered in observance of Labour Day 2023 under the Union’s theme: “Workers Have Absolutely No Trust in This Government!”
Members of the United Progressive Party joined the gathering, as is the custom, given the shared history of the two institutions.
In addressing the workers, General Secretary of the ABWU, Sen. David Massiah, chronicled the recent spate of industrial unrest by public sector workers including nurses and teachers. He said these incidents coupled with the government’s failure to properly address the LIAT severance matter and the high cost of living had caused workers to lose trust in the government.
The General Secretary used the occasion to call on the Government to set up an unemployment fund to protect workers from economic shocks. “We want to make sure that the unemployment fund is there [so] that if another pandemic hits we have something to take care of the working class people out there,” Massiah said.
The delayed revisions to the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code was another area of concern for the General Secretary. Massiah challenged the Minister of Labour to act swiftly in bringing an updated Labour Code to the parliament. He added that new legislation governing health and safety was also needed.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Hon. Jamale Pringle, reaffirmed the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) commitment to work with the ABWU to “put forward policies that will benefit the working class.” Pringle disclosed that the two institutions were in the early stages of developing legislation on the Protection of Severance.
“We are working on a bill to take to parliament to protect the working class severance and we are not going to do so blindly, we will continue to consult with all stakeholders to ensure that we have the buy-in of employers as well,” the Opposition Leader stated.
1st Vice President of the ABWU, Hazel Luke, focused her presentation on the role and contribution of women in the world of work. Luke called on women to work together for their collective advancement. "No female employee should feel intimidated to stand with her female co-worker in need of support or solidarity when they experience sexual harassment, mental and emotional violence in the workplace or because they have a political preference,” Luke contended.
Following the rally, workers took to the streets in a show of solidarity and resistance to the oppressive and intimidating tactics that the Union has accused the government of using.
The Union’s Labour Day activities ended in the traditional festivities at Ffryes Beach.