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Agri officials could withhold meat licenses this week

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The employees at the Veterinary Division at the Ministry of Agriculture are threatening to withhold the signing of “licenses for the import and export of meat and live animals” if a number of issues are not addressed by ministry officials by February 3rd , 2020.

If the ministry made good on their threat, importers will not be able to clear any meat or live animal products through the country’s Customs and Excise division.

The employees claim that, “the government of Antigua and Barbuda is putting the health and notifiable disease free status of the animals and by extension the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda at risk by continually turning a blind eye to the needs and requirements of the staff of the Veterinary and Livestock Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishers and Barbuda Affairs.”

Agricultural ministry staff members along with their union, will be meeting with ministry officials on Monday at 9 a.m.

The workers of Veterinary and Livestock Division, through a letter now leaked to OBSERVER media, has stated its intent to join with the employees of the extension division in their recent industrial action last week Wednesday at the Ministry of Agriculture.

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Another hard deadline set by the division was that of Monday 27th January, 2020 for the resolution of an ongoing “plumbing issue”.

“Failure to alleviate the plumbing issue and restore running water by Monday 27th January, 2020 will result in protest action by the staff of the Veterinary and Livestock Division,” the release stated.

In a letter written by members of staff of the division to division head, Dr. Tubal Edwards, on Friday 17th January, 2020, it states: “It is evident that there is a blatant lack of respect for the employees of the Veterinary and Livestock Division. Running water is the most basic requirement of any office space. The issue of lack of running water has persisted since Dunbars in 2016 and continues to plague us to this date.”

The staff members listed 18 grievousness to include: no running water; no functional bathroom facility; no internet access; inadequate salary for medical professionals and staff; no risk pay or insurance for workers; lack of timely overtime payments; inadequacy office facilities i.e. multiple employees seated at one desk using metal folding chairs; no building maintenance particularly at the abattoir; no computers for the veterinarians; no medical or veterinary equipment; no functional fax machine; no inspection facility at the V.C. Bird International Airport; no proper protective equipment; mouldy building; inadequate transportation for staff; inadequate cold storage for abattoir; inadequate transport for staff; and only one functioning entrance in the building which is a fire hazard.

“These issues have been ongoing since July 2019 with the exception of inadequate salaries, lack of inspection facility which has been a reported issue since 2016,” the letter stated.

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