Workers at the Free Trade and Processing Zone have an indefinite length of time to wait for the conclusion of an agreement on cost-cutting efforts being discussed by their union and employer. What was supposed to have been the final round of negotiations ended yesterday without resolution.
The main discussion point now is how much of their salaries workers can do without over a six-month period.
The measure, which started these talks and fuelled a brief strike in December, was meant to last a year and represent a 20 per cent cut in take-home pay. Union pressure forced a concession that saw the company asking for a 10.67 per cent cut over 6 months instead, but that still wasn’t satisfactory to Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT & LU). The bargaining agents went into yesterday’s meeting offering 4 per cent. At the end of the day yesterday, half a per cent separated the sides and each has retreated to its respective corner to contemplate its position.
The union’s 4 per cent was extrapolated after asking workers what portion of their salaries they could give up while continuing to service their loans and other financial responsibilities for half a year and the company’s 10.67 per cent came from its assessment of its revenue and cost.
“We are saying that any additional money, whether it is an additional 4 per cent or 10.67 per cent or whatever figure we arrive at, that additional money, once we agree to it, not only will it be given up for a period not exceeding 6 months, must be paid back,” said AT&LU Industrial Relations Officer Ralph Potter yesterday.
The original measure never contemplated that the pay cut would be carried as a debt to employees, and the company has still not agreed to the responsibility, so that is another point the board has to discuss when it meets next.
The union wants a commitment the full sum will be repaid within a year. It has also been pressing for workers to be fully compensated for the days they took part in the strike.