Frank B. Armstrong workers step up protest over negotiations that reportedly have dragged on for nearly 20 years

Frank B. Armstrong Antigua Ltd. and its employees remain at odds, as workers continued what, reportedly, was a second day of industrial action over stalled negotiations on their collective bargaining agreement.

Workers reportedly commenced their protest action on Tuesday, May 2, by lining the front of the property and demanding that the pace of the negotiations for a new agreement be stepped up.

Reports say the last agreement was signed in 2004.

However, on Wednesday, May 3, the employees stepped up their action by going outside the compound of the Factory Road business, with placards in hand, calling for updates on the negotiations.

“We work hard, we need our money;” “Nearly 20 years and nothing;” and “We need our money and we need it now,” some placards read.  Another declared: “An agreement is to be respected, treat us right.”

The workers’ bargaining agent, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union, and the company’s management have not been able to reach an amicable agreement in almost 20 years.

It is alleged that Armstrong has not lived up to some of its commitments and, early in the negotiations, had written to the Union expressing its final position – even before discussions had commenced.

The Union says this position was not taken in good faith, adding that – while the company has failed to honour certain agreements reached in principle – it now wants the Union to honour them.

Hugh Joseph, an industrial relations officer at the Union, spoke to REAL News correspondent George Wehner on Wednesday morning, alleging union-busting tactics on the part of the company.

It was noted that some of the positions that were favourable to the workers were not honoured, forcing a case before the Industrial Court.

However, Joseph says, the matter did not go to trial, and a Consent Order was agreed upon.  But the Union is still unable to ascertain whether, in fact, the Order was honoured, as the company is claiming.

The workers, through their union, are asking for paternity leave, salary increases, and an extension of compassionate leave, among other benefits, for the over 16 workers at the company.

Joseph says that a letter was penned by the Union to the company’s management on April 13; however, to date, there has been no response.

Reports are that the management is yet to respond to the workers’ action.  According to other media reports, it says it was taken by surprise by the protest action.