Rift between AT&LU executive members blows up during press conference; observers allege that PM Browne has a hand in it
An apparent rift between two executive members of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) came to a head on Tuesday, February 22, when a press conference was interrupted by the Union’s President, Wigley George.
Reports are that Hugh Joseph, the General Secretary, had convened the meeting to address the issue of the union’s leadership and to seek clarity about logistics for a special conference on Wednesday.
Additionally, the press conference was intended to address the election of a new executive.
However, it appears that a certain faction of the executive was not invited to the press conference, and some complained that they were left out of the process for tomorrow’s event.
George reportedly walked into and disrupted the press conference, demanding to know who had given permission for the event to be held. Following an exchange between him and Joseph, reports say, George then left the event.
Joseph has expressed the view that he is deliberately being marginalized by some members of the Union.
Meanwhile, Ralph Potter, the Union’s Industrial Relations Officer, confirms that Joseph is being left out of certain processes. But he says he cannot go into the details of what has created the rift among executive members.
Potter says, further, that he could not explain why only certain members of the executive had been invited to the press briefing.
In the meantime, a social-media post is alleging that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is making good on earlier threats to have certain members of the Union removed.
Likening the current situation to the 1967 incident in which George Walter, Donald Halstead, and Malcolm Daniel were dismissed from the same union by V.C. Bird, Senior, the post claims that Browne is “engineering a plot to dismiss several executive officers of the AT&LU because they are deemed to be out of step with his wishes.”
It alleges that the Prime Minister is displeased that the Union is agitating “on behalf of disadvantaged workers.”
When Government workers were sent home as a result of the controversial vaccination mandate last September, Browne made it clear that he was upset by the Union’s challenge of his dictate in the court. He accused the AT&LU of breaking ranks with the Government and declared that some members of the executive, including George, were “unfit for purpose.” Further, he said that by its next convention, the Union needed to change its leadership.