(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Trade union leaders have used some strong adjectives to describe the actions of Prime Minister Gaston Browne at an Antigua Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) meeting on Friday.
The ABPSA called an emergency meeting at the Botanical Gardens to consult with its members over what action should be taken to resolve outstanding back pay.
Established workers came off the job to attend the 9 a.m. meeting, however, they were also joined by Browne and Social Transformation minister, Samantha Marshall, who both showed up uninvited.
The issue was discussed at length during the Big Issues programme on Sunday, with union leaders accusing the prime minister of allegedly “intimidating public servants.”
David Massiah, general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), described the PM’s intervention as, “Unfortunate, dictatorial, bombastic. When I looked at the memo that was circulated by the public servant’s general secretary. It is more or less to garner their memberships’ input as to what would happen.”
Massiah added that the ABPSA erred by allowing their “unwanted guest” to address the workers at the gathering.
“If I did not invite you to the meeting you could not speak in that way against me and still hold my mic. I was the one who brought my mic, so I will take it from you, whether you are the prime minister or not.
“You [PM Browne] did not come to their meeting behaving as the prime minister, because you dissolved parliament, so as far as I am concerned, you are not the prime minister,” Massiah declared.
The agenda for the meeting was the outstanding back pay that is owed to civil servants, in light of a notice from the government’s negotiating team advising the ABPSA that there had been no final decision on a proposal the ABPSA gave them to resolve the back pay.
Earlier this month, the association rejected government’s proposal of a one-month salary to cover the outstanding back pay which amounts to $124 million. In its counterproposal, the union requested three times that amount, noting that based on their calculations, the workers would lose if they accepted the government’s offer.
After showing up to the meeting, the prime minister attempted to dissuade workers from taking any action on the eve of the March 21st general election. He also accused the union officials of having a political agenda.