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Antigua & Barbuda Workers’ Union Condemns Attack on Sir. George H. Walter by Prime Minister Gaston Browne

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union takes note of Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s unfortunate and disgraceful attempt to denigrate the momentous and epic contributions of Antigua and Barbuda National Hero, Sir George H. Walter.

Browne, in his delusional revision of historical facts, purported that Sir. George is “totally undeserving” of the designation of National Hero. Browne further attempted to malign the former Premier by alleging that he was given a “cushy job” at the AT&LU by Sir. Vere Cornwall Bird Sr., only because of his father’s contributions to the Union.

However, quite to the contrary, Sir George’s career at the AT&LU was characterized by struggle and major accomplishments, particularly after he was unanimously elected to the position of General Secretary on January 03, 1960 when the previous General Secretary demitted office.

Thereafter, Sir. George’s unwarranted and unfair dismissal from the AT&LU in 1967 was as a result of his integrity and refusal to bend to the pressure of the then majority corrupt union executives. These V.C. Bird controlled executive members received a salary for sitting on government boards, and were attempting to influence the General Secretary and other full time union officers, to accept a 5% offer during negotiations with the government for better wages and working conditions.

The policies of the administration had also resulted in the marginalization of the workers at the Antigua Sugar Factory, after V.C. Bird took over control of the industry. Sir George Walter maintained his stance and supported the workers cause, and called for dialogue rather than unilateral imposition by the V. C. Bird led administration.

Sir George’s stance in support of the workers’ cause, led to his and one other officers’ dismissal from the AT&LU.

This situation ultimately led Sir. George to answer the call of the workers to form a new union – the Antigua Workers’ Union, which eventually swept away significant membership from the AT&LU, both in the private and public sectors. 

His leadership of the Antigua Workers Union was exemplary and he embarked upon the organizational transformation of trade unionism in Antigua and Barbuda, modernising and expanding the scope and organisationtional outreach of the new union to involve both white collar and blue collar workers.

Because of his exceptional and people-centered leadership, he was called upon to take over the leadership of the Progressive Labour Movement in 1970, and in 1971 led the PLM to a resounding victory at the polls, thus becoming the Second Premier of Antigua and Barbuda.

As Premier, Sir George’s contributions particularly in the area of social welfare and protection remains unrivaled by any other government in Antigua & Barbuda. Moreover, he demonstrated astute leadership at a critical juncture in history when the nation was transitioning from colonial governorship to independence.

Foremost among Sir. George’s accomplishments for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is the establishment of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code which gave workers dignity and protected their rights. Also credited to Sir. George is the creation of the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Scheme. These two accomplishments by themselves, have formed the foundation on which a people-centered society has been built.

In his five years in office, Sir George pursued many endeavors that would yield exponential benefits for generations of Antiguans & Barbudans. In 1975, the PLM administration spent $10,000,000 on education, the highest figure ever spent up to that time. The figure included the construction and expansion of several schools including the All Saints Secondary, Pares Secondary, Jennings Secondary and Otto’s Comprehensive Schools. The opportunities and benefits of this accelerated access to secondary education has redounded immeasurably for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

It was also under Antigua and Barbuda’s Second Premier that the one billion gallons of water at Potworks Dam was put into effective and efficient use. In May 1975, Sir. George opened the Delaps Water Treatment Plant which fed the island-wide water distribution system, providing potable water for thousands of residents and improving their overall quality of life.

In the area of Industry and commerce, Sir George undertook the establishment of the Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank which was at the time described as “a giant stride forward on the journey towards economic and social emancipation.” To date, this body has provided medium and long term financial support for numerous agricultural enterprises among other indigenous business undertakings.

While these are just a few highlights of Sir George’s contributions, the full record of his impact on Antigua and Barbuda would be impossible to document in this medium, and even so, may still prove unsatisfactory to an unreasonable and reprobate mind.

Sir Georges detractors, would have relished an opportunity to disgrace the esteemed Premier following his stellar performance as the country’s leader. Prime Minister Browne’s reference to Sir. George Walter’s incarceration failed to note that the judicial body exonerated him from all the charges, and in fact, concluded that they were the result of a politically motivated witch hunt aimed at destroying his character.

We at the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union again denounce and condemn the unwarranted and vulgar attack on Antigua and Barbuda National Hero, Sir George H. Walter, by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

We call for an immediate apology and retraction of the vulgar comments made.

Antigua and Barbuda will continue to celebrate the life and legacy of Sir. George H. Walter.

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