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University workers not paid in months, union official says

by: - July 5, 2018
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(Antigua Observer) A trade unionist is urging the Labour Department to intervene at the University of Health Sciences Antigua (UHSA) where a number of workers have reportedly not been paid for months, possibly since March.

OBSERVER media was not able to reach Dr. Deborah Robinson Akande, Chairman of UHSA, on Tuesday evening to verify the information but Samuel James, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union (ABFTU) said his own sources had told him the situation was “dire.”

“There appears to be some serious financial difficulty and based on our sources the employees have not be paid since March despite several promises to pay salaries,” James said on Tuesday.

He said it was “right” for the Labour Department to “step in and address” the matter. “Go and investigate and where necessary protect the interest of the workers at the institution,” James declared.

He also encouraged the workers at the institution to “find representation” as he admitted that to his knowledge they are not unionised. UHSA is a private, for-profit medical school located in Dowhill near Falmouth and has been instructing students since 1983.

OBSERVER media spoke with Labour Commissioner Eltonia Anthony-Rojas on Tuesday afternoon and she said that workers need not be unionised to get the attention of the department.

“It just has to be from the employees, a letter signed by the interested parties indicating what the problem is and asking for the Department’s assistance,” she said, adding that once a group comes forward the matter would receive priority over those where individuals are waging a fight.

The Labour Commissioner also said that workers “have a right to be paid” but she added that to her knowledge, no party had as yet brought the issue of nonpayment of salaries at the UHSA to the department.