Former employees of the Jolly Beach Resort (JBR) have come out in defence of their bargaining agent, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU), after Prime Minister Gaston Browne claimed the organization was holding up the payment of severance.
On Saturday, November 19, Browne alleged that the Union had received the money – nearly $13 million – and implied that it was stalling the process of payment for political purposes.
However, on Monday, November 21, the Union put out a statement denying Browne’s claims. Additionally, a former shop steward at the resort, Mark Stewart, called into a radio programme that night, confirming that the Union was telling the truth and had not received the money.
Stewart accused the authorities of playing games with the lives of the workers and not considering the hardships they continue to face.
He pointed out that Prime Minister Browne had contradicted himself by giving the impression that the funds had been handed over three weeks ago and then claiming he had only recently signed a certificate to commence the process.
If that is the case, Stewart said, then obviously the severance payments could not have been made before, which is a commonsense conclusion.
The former shop steward says the Government continues to make statements to fool people who are not practical thinkers.
As well as the Union, Stewart said, the former JBR workers have been working behind the scenes to verify certain information. And a recent check with the court-appointed liquidator verified that the Union did not have any access to a cheque at the time.
Like the ABWU, Stewart is accusing the Government and the Prime Minister of playing politics with this situation.
Further, allegations by the Office of the Prime Minister that the Union had put forward the names of workers who are not entitled to receive severance was rubbished by the former worker.
He said that Browne does not seem to be familiar with the process, since the workers’ records had to be obtained from the hotel, itself, through the Human Resources manager. The names also had to be confirmed by the lawyers and liquidators.
Had the Prime Minister been communicating with the Union in a respectable manner, then all this foolish talk could have been avoided, Stewart said.