St. John’s Antigua- Around 20 workers at Antigua Energy Operators, a subsidiary of the energy company Wartsila, located on Crabbs Peninsula, went on strike on Wednesday, to demand a salary increase they say is owed to them.
The workers claim that following a dispute last year which went to arbitration, the Labour Commissioner recommended a 3 per cent pay raise but the company is now only offering 2 per cent.
“The company has decided they are not willing to pay the 3 per cent. They are only willing to pay the 2 per cent but we are sticking to the 3 per cent,” employee Vaughn Richards said. “We have decided that we are not going back to work until the three per cent has been paid.”
But the workers also say their grievances are more deep-rooted, as they have had to accept a salary freeze for a number of years. They also claim that they are currently being paid below a minimum pay scale decided upon in an agreement made in 2007 with the company and the union, although that agreement has since expired.
Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) Shop Steward Kareem Christopher said they are standing firm in their demands.
“We want the three per cent the labour commissioner recommended for us,” Christopher said.
The aggrieved workers, who say they have all been working with the company upwards of five years, said that their last contract ended in 2007 up until they received a raise each year.
However Christopher said the annual salary increases have been harder to come by since 2007 and it is because they have sacrificed already over the last few years that they are not willing to budge this time around.
“What we want people to understand is that Wartsila is defying the instruction of the labour commissioner and they say no, they are not paying…This is a foreign company that is saying they are not paying what the government is stipulating they pay to the workers,” one employee said.
“We had wanted 4.5 per cent. It went to arbitration and they said give the people 3 per cent and they are saying no. So in essence, they are saying they have no regard for the government or the labour commissioner,” the employee added.