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Antilles Trading rebuffs workers

By Natlie S. Flemming, Antigua Sun, 22 September 2000

Managing director of Antilles Trading and Shipping, Lionel Walling, has bluntly refused to give in to union's demands for a 18 percent salary increase over a three year period, a $5 increase on meal allowance and a $1,300 bonus owed to the workers since 1998.

Speaking to The SUN, Walling said that he has no other alternative but to fire the workers.

Five workers, joined by Industrial Relations Officer of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union, picketed the office of the air conditioning supplier yesterday morning.

"What they are doing right now is illegal, because the matter is before the Labour Commissioner Austin Josiah. I am actually writing a letter of dismissal to each of them," Walling said.

"They have terminated their services themselves, they have actually quit."

He further said that the company is "in the red as any other company," and until the funds are available he cannot pay the workers their bonuses.

Industrial Relations Officer for AWU, Anderson Carty, described the action taken by Walling as those of a "slave driver back in the days."

"If he feels that is the way he has to go and that's his decision, we will proceed with our course of action," Carty said.

"Walling's position is that the same terms and conditions negotiated since 1992, remain in place. (However) the workers cause is legitimate and we will maintain our stance until justice is given," the officer said.

The placard-bearing protestors are demanding that Walling pay them their dues immediately.

"We want our money. If it is for justice that we lose our jobs, (then) we will not be afraid, God made mouth and he made bread," shouted a worker.

"Me qualified fu work anywhere, me nah concern bout dismissal," said another.

"When you dismiss make sure yuh have all me money," another shouted.

Some of the placards read "Share the wealth," "Money is the name," "Promise don't pay the "water bills," "Too long we want our money."