ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Chairman of the Antigua Hotels and Tourism Association (AHTA) Alistair Forrest is hopeful of settling the outstanding collective bargaining agreement between hoteliers and their employees after today’s scheduled meeting with Labour Minister Dr Errol Cort.
Forest told The Daily OBSERVER the AHTA accepted the recommendations from the labour commissioner but the workers and their union, Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), rejected them last week, thus the need for further talks today.
“Hopefully we can take talks further and even achieve a settlement which is obviously in all our best interest to do so. The AHTA has accepted the labour commissioner’s recommendations … in writing the day that we received the letter of consideration from his office,” Forrest said.
He said commissioner Hesketh Williams recommended an increase in weekly pay of $10 backdated to October 1 and then a further $7 per week from January 1, 2012.
“Quite simply we were told that that isn’t enough … Can we afford it? I have to say that it has to be each individual business that has to answer that for themselves and that’s why we’re tense.
“Whenever we are negotiating, we put whatever is proposed to the membership and they come back to us with their comments. At the same time we have to understand that cost of living is rising and that the hotel staff needs to be looked after because they are absolutely our most important asset,” Forrest added.
The hotelier said that the harsh economic times make it difficult to raise pay levels but hotels decided to accept the recommendations because cost of living is also affecting workers and not just businesses.
“We are representing at this stage hotels, the largest I think is Jolly Beach, and they extend right down to small hotels. Can any of us afford a pay raise?
“Well these are very difficult and challenging economic times and we came to the table initially saying we couldn’t really afford a pay raise at all and many, many hotels are actually not in profit and they are losing money on a weekly basis,” the AHTA chairman said.