Trade union leader in Antigua calls on gov’t to help workers as COVID-19 spreads

A trade union leader is calling on the government to establish a fund to assist workers who are likely to be severely affected as the coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps through the Caribbean.

President of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union (ABFTU), Samuel James, speaking on a radio programme, said that the Gaston Browne administration should establish the fund to assist persons who will become unemployed as a result of the virus that has severely undermined economic situations worldwide.

“When a government should consider implementing an unemployment fund in this point in time, it would be a good thing,” he said. “I believe most of us are of the opinion that the government is pretty much broke”.

Upfront and honest

But he said all stakeholders, including the government, “should come out to the public to address this particular issue as to what approach they have to deal with this obvious eventuality where businesses are obviously having to send home workers in particular the hotels.”

James also suggested that employers and the unions, as well as workers, “need to have regular dialogue, open and upfront and honest with each other so that we will know exactly what the business is going through, exactly what the employees are feeling and what both sides could do to assist the other side”.

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) is calling on landlords to assist tenants by either reducing rents or providing grace periods, given that many workers are likely to be placed on a shorter workweek.