Government Intervention Prevents Antigua Brewery Closure

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Eleventh hour talks were being sought yesterday with representatives of Antigua Brewery Limited as government attempts to avert the shutdown of the company’s production facility here.

This came as the General Secretary of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) David Massiah warned that the decision to close the facility and send home 42 workers could spark a chain reaction among foreign-owned companies operating locally.

“With this happening with Antigua Brewery, who else is not going to do it? Who other employer (isn’t) going to come and say, ‘I am shutting down shop’,” said Massiah irately. The ABWU represents the affected workers.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said his administration is considering several options to stop the company’s plan to shift production to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“We are looking at a scenario where we may be able to get other persons interested in taking over the plant and to continue production because while it is true that another OECS member state would be the beneficiary of the production, we are concerned about the fact that it would have an impact here in terms of employment and other considerations,” he said. “So we are looking at possible alternatives in terms of what can be done.”

The chief servant said he has also instructed Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell to hold further talks with the company in which the majority shares are owned by Empresas Leon Jimenes SA of the Dominican Republic.

The job losses appear to have caught the prime minister and others who should be in the know, off-guard.

According to Spencer, members of his administration were in talks with Antigua Brewery to avoid such a situation, and had put forward some suggestions. The company has not responded to date, he explained.

“We have had discussions with the brewery people trying to see how best we may be able to avoid them going that route, but I kind of got the impressions they’d made up their minds that that is the only option they had available,” he said.

Meantime, the ABWU’s general secretary has expressed anger and disappointment with the company’s decision stating, “More dialogue was necessary; more interaction and engagement of all the parties and for them to hold strain.

“How can a government respond to a situation whereby something that is going to carry the Antigua name is not being brewed here? I would want to believe that the government would have put forward some sort of (recommendation) in response,” the union’s general secretary remarked.

Senator Massiah, who, on Monday notified the employees about the impending plan, said Antigua Brewery met with the union previously and provided information to support its claim of significant losses.

However, according to Massiah, he’d proposed that the company not make the relocation to St Vincent a permanent one, but rather that it be done in the short-term while the facility at Crabb’s Peninsula undergoes renovation.

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