ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Monday’s Labour Day activities seemed less a celebration of workers’ rights and more of a lament by the main opposition Antigua Labour Party and its aligned Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) of the employment situation in the country.
On a day of grey skies and consistent rainfall, hundreds of supporters gathered at the Sir Vere Cornwall Bird bust and then marched through the nation’s capital.
Trade union leaders told supporters that they were meeting at a time of increased taxation.
“Tax on your allowances, your incentives are now taxed. Your travel and meal allowances are now being taxed,” said Alrick Daniel, general secretary of the AT&LU.
He said the union remains committed to defending workers’ rights, adding, “We have a plan in place.”
Speaking at the gathering, Daniel defended his union’s alignment with the main opposition party, assuring workers that they can be effectively represented despite the marriage.
“All the rights that workers have today were gained under the same system where the AT&LU and the ALP is affiliated,” he said.
The other speakers, members of the ALP, decried the employment and wage situation in the country.
ALP Member of Parliament for St Mary’s North Molwyn Joseph told the rally that the fight today is for more than just increased wages “but increases in all aspects of their lives.”
Deputy political leader of the party Gaston Browne said to ensure an improved situation of workers, ALP first had to unite and ensure that the ruling UPP was removed at the next poll.
“There are many people in this country who are unemployed, many people in poverty and we cannot continue to divide among ourselves,” Browne told supporters.
ALP political leader Lester Bird, speaking for a little over two minutes, echoed similar sentiments.
“They talk about safe hands but safe hands for what?” he said. “Safe hands for inflation, food prices going up, for no jobs, safe hand for unemployment.”
The AT&LU said it observed 61 years of Labour Day celebrations with the ALP.