Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Hon Gaston Browne, is challenging other regional Heads of Government within CARICOM, to protect workers in the hospitality sector from exploitation.
His call comes amidst a dispute between his cabinet and the Sandals Grande Resort and Spa in Antigua, over concessions they approached his government requesting.
In an interview with Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service (ABS), Browne says Sandals approached his government for concessions on food and beverage, but the cabinet took no immediate decision in granting these concessions.
Sandals then announced that they are halting operations for five months effective September 20th, 2017.
Browne, in response, called the move by Sandals an "act of hostility against the Antiguan people", and a play for concessions.
During an emergency sitting of Parliament on Thursday, the government of Antigua and Barbuda tabled the investment opportunity bill before The House. The bill makes it mandatory for all hotels with 5% or more of the island's room shock to notify the cabinet before their closure.
At that time, Browne says the argument is now for regional leaders to protect their citizens against investors who seek to exploit them.
“The argument has to become a regional discussion about protecting the Caribbean people from exploitation, about ensuring as leaders that we protect Caribbeaners.”
With a collective approach from CARICOM Heads, equal opportunity for all will be available within the region.
Browne gave a call for harmonisation of investment opportunities in the region to prevent investors from jumping from island to island looking for the best deals.
“To ensure some sort of harmonisation of investment so that an investor can’t come to Antigua and Barbuda and behave like a bandit, and hold a gun, and say if you don’t give me this I will lock down my hotel. Or if you don’t give me these concessions I will take my hotel to another country."
The president of the Public Service Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Watson Duke, during an interview recently with Observer Media Group in Antigua called on regional heads not to allow investors to come in and enrich themselves at the expense of their locals.
He said; “When you allow someone to come in and destroy the economy while he is enriching himself, that to me is a devastating blow; one that may take you a lifetime to recover.”
Sandals Groups International is one of the largest hotel chains in the region.