The General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) David Massiah is hitting back at Prime Minister Gaston Browne over fresh remarks regarding the severance to LIAT workers and further talks with the union.
Browne said during his closing remarks on the 1.8-billion-dollar budget debate on Wednesday that Massiah the ABWU should take him to court over the LIAT matter since he will be holding no talks with the union in the absence of other regional shareholders.
The prime minister said the ABWU continues to make “unreasonable” demands on the ABLP administration to pay 100% of the severance and monies owed to the workers
“I want to say to them today, definitively, that if we have any such legal obligations then take us to court. I also want to state that we are not having any further bilateral engagements with ABWU…” “because I find they have literally abused our benevolence”
But in a swift response, Massiah has made it clear that negotiations will not end, telling Browne that he does not get to close the door on the matter.
“Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Why are you so averse to meeting with the unions on the matter of severance for the former employees of LIAT 1974 Limited? Prime Minister Browne. When and how have the workers of late so offended you that you would do anything within your power to deprive them of their just claim for severance and other terminal benefits?” Massiah said in a statement tonight.
Massiah also accused the prime minister of having “disdain” for the former workers of LIAT.
“It is obscene and bewildering that as a prime minister and a representative of a constituency, you would have such disdain for workers. But it is because of people like you that the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union exists. Prime Minister Brown, you do not get to close the door on this matter”, he said.
The ABWU, according to Massiah will pursue this administration and any other administration and will use every option available to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement for the workers of LIAT. It will not be your so-called compassionate offer or nothing.
“Why should the workers of late go home nearly empty-handed with only a fraction of their entitlements in cash? Having been out of work for almost three years with mounting mortgage payments coupled with the skyrocketing cost of living all of which you have the power to resolve. How can this be right in keeping with your modus operandi? You have deluded yourself and your cronies into thinking that somehow your administration is the hero in this tragic mess that you have created since the demise of late,” Massiah said.
Massiah also accused PM Browne of prolonging the suffering of the former workers, depriving them of their dignity while insulting their intelligence
“The only thing your administration has done for the workers is prolonged their suffering, deprive them of their dignity, and insult their intelligence. It is not the case that the union and the workers have been unreasonable with the government on the contrary, we have pleaded for dialogue on multiple occasions” he said.
Furthermore, Massiah does not believe that the prime minister had ever prioritized the severance of the workers.
“But what has stalled any progress on this matter is the fact that severance of any reasonable kind for the late workers has never been a priority for the Gaston Browne administration. In addition to this, Mr. Prime Minister, you have spared no effort to keep the workers and the unions and the entire nation in the dark with regards to the administration of late, which should have lasted only four months. It has been over two years to date. What will be the outcome of this administration process? The workers have been monitoring this process with bated breath”.
Anyone with a good conscience, Massiah said, would admit that it is “morally correct and most natural for the government to make every effort to achieve a reasonable settlement that involves respectful dialogue with the Union. The Legal and Lawful Representative and the workers of late 1974 limited”
The ABWU boss ended his communique, making another pitch for dialogue with the prime minister on the issue
“We are urging you again, Mr. Prime Minister, to put aside all prejudice and prioritize the 600-plus workers and their families who have been severely disadvantaged by your administration’s uncaring actions,” he added.