St. John’s Antigua- More than a year of negotiations between hoteliers, employees and their union finally paid off yesterday with the parties agreeing on increases in wages and allowances.
The increase in wages range from $17 to $24 per week.
The settlement of the matter came a week after the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) and the workers they represent rejected some of the same recommendations made by the Labour Commissioner Hesketh Williams.
According to a press statement from the Antigua Hotel and Tourist Association (AHTA) the parties have agreed on an increase of $10 per week to be paid dating back to October 1, 2011 and a further increase of 7 per week from January 1, 2012 for the workers at smaller hotel properties.
Employees at larger properties will receive a $12 increase per week in both instances.
In addition to those increases, the parties negotiated a further graveyard shift allowance of $25 per week, an increase in the spread over allowance by $2:50 per week and an increase of meal allowance of $1 per meal, with two meals being given per day.
ABWU representative Chester Hughes welcomed the development.
In a press statement he noted, “We are pleased that the hoteliers have moved to what we consider to be a compromise position to allow for employees to cushion the rise in the cost of living against their wages. Employees can now go to bed resting peacefully knowing that of January 1st, in some cases, they can look forward to a minimum of $24 on their wages weekly as well as improved allowances.
“We look forward to working more closely with the AHTA in 2012 and beyond in preparation for the negotiations for the next three years of the Agreement starting in 2013,” Hughes added.
The Collective Agreement covers all hotels members of the AHTA with exception of the Elite Island Resorts, Rex Resorts and Sandals properties or just over 50 per cent of the hotel inventory on the island representing nearly 2000 workers.
AHTA Chairman Alistair Forrest also commented in the agreement saying, “The last two years have been very challenging to the hotel sector and increasing costs by raising salaries is always a difficult option but in a service industry such as this the hoteliers recognize the staff as their greatest asset and the importance of their welfare.
The increase in the cost of living in Antigua is affecting our workers as well as our businesses and we had to take this into consideration. We are happy that these negotiations have been drawn to a close so that we can concentrate of increasing our business for 2012,” Forrest concluded.
Negotiations had reach a stalemate and the parties had gone before the commissioner for assistance in resolving certain outstanding issues but a week ago the union rejected his recommendations.
The matter was referred to Labour Minister Dr Errol Cort who last night told this newspaper, “I had a conciliation hearing with the parties (Wednesday) and we were able to reach an amicable settlement.”
Dr Cort said both parties were willing to revise their initial position and, in the spirit of giving and taking, they were able to reach a resolution of the outstanding issues.
The minister congratulated the hoteliers and the union “for the mature manner in which they handled the negotiations” while adding, “I am pleased that my office was able to assist in settling this matter as the consequences could have been very serious in the absence of a settlement.”