WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

Policy Versus Politics

Alice in Wonderland saga of the Port AuthorityWord surfaced recently (Port Authority Wants to Lay Off 140 Workers – April 13) that the Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority is considering “sending home” half the port’s existing work force on half-pay furlough.

The lay-off program is designed to ease the authority’s crushing financial burden, and the hope is that the furloughs will be a temporary measure, buying the beleaguered Port Authority the time and financial resources it needs to implement the urgently needed Voluntary Separation Program. A period of three months has been floated.



The Port Authority itself is yet to make any public statement on the developing issue, but reports so far indicate that Port Authority board chair Gregg Walter has discussed the proposal with the two bargaining agents for port workers, the Antigua Trades & Labour Union and the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union. This, so far, is as far as it goes: none of the parties has said anything further on the matter … at least, not yet.

We may well be enjoying the calm before the storm, as the port workers and their union representatives digest this latest entry into the long running Alice-in-Wonderland saga of the Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority. On the other hand the relative calm with which the labor organizations have received the proposal may well indicate a sense that somehow, at some point, the Port Authority must break out of the vicious circle in which it seems so inextricably caught.

This may well be the home truth that is steadying the nerve of normally stalwart and excitable representatives of labor, as they stare unflinchingly into the eye of a proposal that in other times would have had them climbing the walls in a frothing frenzy of rejection. It is quite safe to say that in other, better times no self-respecting labor unionist would be caught dead even giving countenance to the idea of “sending home workers” to solve problems created by management. Actually agreeing to discuss the thing, even behind closed doors, is a major concession to reality.

Some clue to the pressures that are driving the workers’ representatives to the edge of unreason is found in this remarkable truth: the proposal to “send home” workers, even temporarily, is designed to make it possible for the Port Authority to reach an objective it has been striving to achieve for years – to “send home” workers.

The previous statement is utterly absurd yet entirely factual. It defines the self-serving nature of the politically motivated policies that have brought the Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority to its current ludicrous state. Politicians do indeed make policy. The core problem is that only too often politicians make policy for reasons that are driven more by their own political needs than by the legitimate needs of the public bodies they play with.

Government is indeed “continuous” – according to that marvelous catch-phrase that cropped up so conveniently right after the 2004 change of “administration”. At that time the assertion of continuity was intended to justify the incoming government’s smooth adoption of policies long pursued by the outgoing administration. The discovery that it was at least expedient – if not downright profitable – to simply “go with the flow” when it came to certain politically sensitive issues and interest groups tamed the enthusiastic new “rescue team”, quickly turning the reforming tigers into purring tabby-cats of continuity.

Some political observers date the United Progressive Party government’s ultimate surrender to “Antigua Labour Party politics as usual” to as early as mid-2004. It was during that period that the new ministers began to explain away their own growing list of political stupidities with a self-serving excuse that ran along the lines of: “Well, they (the ALP) used to do it – so now we can do it too.”

Even more than the early and eager adoption of “big money” as the savior of the nation; even more than the avid courting of Shoul, Hadeed and Stanford; the frank and open espousal of political principles as established by the then-despised ALP marked the UPP as a party without a compass, merely following of a path blazed by their predecessors in power. This is the bitter lesson that underlies the ongoing disaster that is the Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority: that the absence of a true national ethic will encourage political expediency to ride roughshod over the national interest. When this happens, corruption and abusive practices will infect all national institutions.

The current position at the Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority is a direct result of unsustainable policies pursued over decades by the entrenched ALP government, and continued by the UPP in the most unhelpful and unimaginative way possible. By 2004 when the ALP was booted from power the port was already famously and historically overstaffed. The UPP leaders simply took over where the rejected ALP had left off, and have since exacerbated the problems at the port to their present utterly irrational state; and they did it by the simple expedient of elevating their own partisan political interests to the level of a national imperative. From the totally selfish UPP point of view what is good for their party must be good for the nation as a whole. The UPP, you see, is the whole nation of Antigua & Barbuda.

As a result of this blind devotion to partisan political interest the Port Authority carries 280 employees on its books – 230 more than required for efficient and economical operation. Yet, in deference to the “local culture”, a management consultant is constrained to recommend that only 140 workers be severed: the remaining 90 or so unnecessary employees are being maintained in unnecessary employment … for, the consultant says, “cultural” reasons. By this we presume the consultant is referring to the political culture.



The sting in the tail for the continuous government of the day is that the bulk of this overstaffing is a direct result of policies implemented at the behest of the UPP, as it sought to ensure its re-election in 2009. To aid in that objective the ruling UPP emulated the ALP and ramped up employment levels at the port. Unfortunately, having packed the port with its own supporters and achieved re-election, the ruling party lacked the testicular fortitude to cut staff.

Now, as force inexorably pushes water uphill, port management and unions alike find themselves required to confront the harsh reality that the only way to enable the Port Authority to cut staffing levels is … to cut staffing levels. In such trying times, absurd solutions begin to seem quite logical and creative.

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8 Comments In This Article   

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@ Collin

#8 Waddali Blogger » 2013-04-16 21:31

@ Collin ... Vatican City have banks ... Vatican City is off limits ...lol.
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Tenman

#7 Colin » 2013-04-16 17:55

"Guided" democracy ... hmm ... sounds to me like a euphemism for "benevolent dictatorship" - the authoritarian impulse by any other name.
This man is dangerous.
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Colin

the cost of apathy

#6 tenman » 2013-04-16 15:35

The port is simply an example of what exists throughout the public service. Everything exists with political motives. The Europeans elites raided these islands, it now the black elites(Politicians) turn. We now see them with their drivers and their many houses living the kind of life that average Antiguan's & Barbudan's will never experience. The public should be able to see from whats happening at the Port, SS, APUA that the WPP is not the only sham put upon us. In 2004, we were asked to sacrifice, and things like the Stabilization fund were enacted, look now at the bugus things we have received from our sacrifices. In the mean time the PM reminds that we have, in his mind, guided democracy. One only need to look at the recent SS "consultations", the to see evidence of the pretend democracy

..
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tenman

I SEE DUMB PEOPLE TOO

#5 Colin » 2013-04-16 15:34

Why did you have to personally abuse me just to get your point across?
You must be really hurting ... poor soul.
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Colin

@I see dumb people

#4 Just Asking » 2013-04-16 14:56

Correct me if I am wrong, you are ok with the port being overstaffed as long as very one gets paid on time? You are correct Clarvis did some things to create the financial black hole but what continues to grow the hole is the paying of unproductive people to sit around and do nothing all day because the site is overstaffed.
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Just Asking

Hmmm

#3 I SEE DUMB PEOPLE » 2013-04-16 12:34

Dunce head inexperince Colin we use to get money ontime although we were over staff and still manage to pay other department for govt salaries , but you memory shallow,from since Clavis came and change up everything and make the Port have to be paying for overtime,making saturdays and sundays moral working days is the biggest hole they put in the port
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I SEE DUMB PEOPLE

Jimmy

#2 Colin » 2013-04-16 09:10

The Vatican posting adds to Shoul's image & status - who would dare infer that such a respectable personage could ever be involved in hanky-panky?

"It's our time now" became strong when their confidence grew - at first they tended to make that other lame excuse.
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Colin

@ Colin!

#1 Jimmy » 2013-04-16 07:17

It seems you forgot to accurately quote the line used by the UPP after 2004: "It's our time now!"

Meanwhile Baldwin doesn't seem to understand - or care for that matter.

Imagine an Ambassador to the catholic Church? They must be hoping for some miracle with the WPP?
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Jimmy

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Mr. Colin Sampson

 Mr. Colin Sampson is a Journalist and the host of "The Colin Sampson Show" on Caribantigua TV 

 

 

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