President says Public Service Assn. members continue struggle for backpay, COVID stipend, uniforms and even drinking water

Joan Peters, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA), says the organisation continues its struggle to settle a number of outstanding issues, including back pay for healthcare workers and their promised COVID-19 stipend.

Reporting on her members’ working conditions, Peters says the Fiennes Institute, the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, the General Post Office and a number of other government departments continue to be a cause for worry.

She says that a major issue now plaguing staff is the lack of drinking water at their work places.

By law, she notes, an employer has to ensure that there is water on the premises for workers’ consumption.  However, Peters says, she has learned that the Government’s failure to pay the service providers has caused them to stop delivering bottled water.

Accordingly, Department Heads and staff have to source drinking water otherwise, according to Peters.

The ABPSA President says the issue of uniforms for those required to wear them also remains outstanding.  There have been instances when some departments receive uniforms and others do not, she notes.

Another troubling issue, Peters says, is the $1,000 stipend that was promised to healthcare workers who were required to deal COVID-19 patients.  Clarevue workers have not received any such remuneration at all, she states.

Meanwhile, addressing the bathroom facilities at the country’s only psychiatric hospital, Peters describes them as dreadful.

Two weeks ago, workers at the institution complained about pit latrines that were causing serious infestations of flies.  However, Peters says the matter is being addressed by the placement of concrete slabs over the holes.

She was quick to point out that, after one facility had been constructed, the Minister of Health, Sir Molwyn Joseph, sent word to stop; but the work continues, she says.

The Public Service Association represents civil servants and workers in some of the statutory corporations.   Therefore, in its endeavours, the Union must write letters and conduct negotiations for collective bargaining agreements and the like.

As a not-for-profit organization, the Union reportedly has requested – through Labour Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin – that the Government allow it to collect a negotiation fee like other bargaining agents.   

However, Peters says, their request has been ignored, to date.