St. John’s Antigua- Union representatives refused to accept the “wholesale” transfer of workers from the Bendals Quarry to the one in Burma, and have instructed employees to report to their usual place of work.
“We are not satisfied with the explanation given by the Ministry of Public Works for the transfers and we have advised the workers that, come Monday, they should report to work at the Bendals quarry,” Antigua Trades and Labour Union representative Ralph Potter said.
“We totally disagree with the way in which the Public Works Department, the Ministry of Works, is seeking to handle this matter.”
On Thursday evening, the industrial relations officer said he found out that employees at the Bendals Quarry were informed that come Monday morning, they should report to the quarry at Burma, and likewise the Burma workers would be sent to Bendals.
Bosses at the Ministry of Works are reportedly conducting investigations into allegations of diesel theft at the Bendals Quarry, and as such, asked that all workers be transferred.
Potter said this move was unacceptable and implicated all workers in the alleged theft.
“I indicated to (the permanent secretary) that while we have no difficulty with Public Works conducting an investigation into what they believe to be some form of wrong-doing, we believe that it is wrong to wholesale transfer everybody when the investigation has not yet been done to determine who might be implicated in this situation,” he said.
“Should the ministry seek to enforce those transfers, our reaction would be to effectively close both quarries,” he added.
Potter said he hoped to meet with the heads of the Public Works Department yesterday, but they indicated they would not be able to make the meeting.
“We should hopefully be meeting some time on Monday,” he said.
The irate workers say the Public Works Department should beef up security to avoid theft rather than what they regarded as the high-handed move to shift them around.
Potter said he could not guarantee that increased security would be part of his discussion with the permanent secretary on Monday.
“We will be discussing the situation generally and it is possible that the issue of security may come up,” he said.
The employees also complained that for over three years, they have been working without protective clothing, citing that as another reason for discontent among their ranks.
The union rep indicated that he informed the permanent secretary of his intention to raise the issue of protective clothing at their meeting.