ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Antigua Port Authority has been advised to reduce its 253 employees by more than 50 per cent or risk further stagnation within the entity, even as local trade unions call for the rights of employees to be respected in the process.
Consultants on Tuesday presented the findings and recommendations of the diagnostic review conducted on the operations at the port.
In presenting the findings, consultant, William Powell, highlighted that the need to address issues relating to overstaffing was based on the harsh financial realities of the port authority.
He recommended that staff numbers be brought to an acceptable level of 100 down from the current number of 253, in keeping with international best practices.
“Following the World Bank standards, we would retain a staff of 50 but because of the cultural considerations, we perhaps recommend 100 to be on the comfortable side,” Powell said at a news conference also attended by other stakeholders.
The consultant said they were aware of the implications that such a down-sizing would have on the country, both political and socio-economic in nature.
“If you were to consider for each person that is going to be sent home, you have at least four mouths to feed,” Powell said.
He warned port officials that any decision to down-size should be done properly and must not result in the performance of the organisation being affected.
Cutting staff to the recommended numbers can save approximately $25,000 per day, according to the consultants.
Adair and Associates also recommended reduced government interference in the operations of the port – a measure welcomed by Port Authority Chairman Greg Walter.
“I think the time has come for the authority to function as a proper, efficient, first-world port. One of the recommendations was for minimal government intervention because there was a period of time where in excess of ten million dollars was taken from the authority,” he said.
Other recommendations which have already been presented to Cabinet include simplifying procedures for doing business on the port, bringing operational practices in line with international best standards and the reducing of in efficiencies with equipment operations.
A productivity incentive scheme, training in port operations, modernisation of port infrastructure and tariff structure were also among recommendations put forward.
Consultants recommended a separation of the yachting and pleasure sector from the cargo sector and upgrade pilots’ training, among other recommendations.
Port officials said they were pleased with the recommendations and said they wanted to move a head with implementation as soon as possible.
But general secretary of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union David Massiah has stressed the need for trade unions to be included in every aspect of the implementations of recommendations at the port.
Implementation of the recommendations is estimated to cost in excess of 30 million US dollars.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)