All workers from at least three of five branches of Western Union have been sent home for an indefinite period as the company was forced to close the sub-stations in Antigua to allow for a system upgrade.
That’s according to a source close to the matter, who told OBSERVER media last night that the money transfer agency has to take steps to become more compliant with anti-money laundering systems and protocols which are monitored by the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy.
Except for staff at the sub-stations operated by Bargain Centre at Perry Bay and at Liberta, who have reportedly been integrated into the operations at the supermarkets, workers at the other Western Union branches had no alternative where they could fit in.
The source said it’s not clear how long those workers would be out of a job or if they would be paid and retained while Western Union works on the system upgrade.
A second source, attached to Bargain Centre, said the Western Union island representative met with the sub-agents to provide updates recently and workers were told the best way to do the upgrade was to shut down operations temporarily but no reopening date was provided.
The source said, “They were not told to close but they decided to close” to do it sooner rather than later.
People in Antigua who attempted to engage in money transfer via Western Union over the weekend, encountered a locked door at the facility’s outlet at Bargain Centre, Perry Bay.
On the door was the following notice, “At this time Western Union money transfer services are temporarily suspended in Antigua and Barbuda.”
The notice further stated: “Customers may contact GraceKennedy Money Services for additional information.”
Many residents in Antigua and Barbuda rely on Western Union to transfer money to relatives living abroad and also to receive cash from outside the country.
Hundreds were reportedly affected because in some countries Western Union is the only money transfer business of that nature.
On Wednesday May 9, OBSERVER media received a communique dated Monday May 7, from Yolande Gyles Levy, Communication and Sponsorship Manager, GraceKennedy Money Services. It stated: “As a leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement, Western Union’s promise to our
customers is to provide fast, reliable and convenient money transfer services across our more than 200 operating countries and territories.
“We have been operating in Antigua and Barbuda since 2006, in alliance with our Agent GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS). At this time, Western Union money transfer services are unavailable in Antigua and Barbuda.
“We recognise the inconvenience caused by this service disruption and are working diligently to restore services as soon as practicable, in line with our commitment to provide customers with reliable and efficient ways to fulfill their money transfer needs in minutes.
“Our customers have trusted our services for decades and we apologise for the inconvenience caused by this
temporary service disruption.
“Customers may contact our Customer Service
Centre Antigua and Barbuda: 268-562-6440 or email us at [email protected] with any question or concerns they may have.”
The agents did not give a reason for the closure nor when services will resume.
Last night, the head of the ONDCP, Lieutenant Col Edward Croft said he had no comment except to confirm the body recently conducted a review of Western Union’s operations.