‘We do not recognize, we cannot recognize’ labor union formed by employees – Astaphan’s management

A fitness event in the parking lot of J. Astaphan & Co. Ltd

The excitement of some employees at J. Astaphan & Co. (1970) Ltd. following the establishment of a new labor union was short-lived. This, as the management of the company has said that it will not recognize  the National Service Workers Union (NASWU) which was formed by a group of its employees.

In a recent press release, the public was made aware of the formation of NASWU following a vote by staff of the Roseau, Fond Cole and Canefield locations of J. Astaphan & Co. Ltd. on Thursday, 5th May, 2022.

According to the release, the group labeled their action a “historical groundbreaking move” for organized labour and collective bargaining in Dominica and added, “it was a surprise for the giant company that has fought unionization efforts over the years.”

The union is headed by Oksana Toulon as General Secretary was described as a young quiet, unassuming, but very conscious attendant in the Cosmetics Department of the company’s main establishment in Roseau.

“She is ably assisted by a competent group of young workers with young women taking the lead,” the release noted.

“Our activism at the company intensified when a memorandum was circulated to all staff at all locations mandating COVID-19 antigen testing for all unvaccinated employees at a cost which would be detrimental to the take home wages of concerned. Apart from that, we have several other grievances that are not being addressed adequately,” NASWU disclosed.

Some of their gripes include the absence of collective bargaining, meager wages, issues of occupational health and safety, workers retirement security and summary dismissals.

“After informing management of the establishment of the NASWU, we have written to the company requesting a moratorium on the COVID-19 Antigen Testing Policy to afford the Union the courtesy of a discussion on the matter,” the release further stated.

NASWU said they will strive to establish “professional, cordial and respectful” relations with their employer and pledge to be “exemplary, disciplined and dignified workers towards our employer as well as towards the public (customers) that we serve daily.”

Their motto, “WORKERS UNITE, MANYEN YONN MANYEN TOUT” (Touch one, touch all).

However, in response to the establishment of a union by employees, Managing Director of J. Astaphan & Co. Ltd., Genevieve M. Astaphan said management was not aware of the existence or legal registration of the NASWU.

“Further, management is unaware of any notice for or poll for recognition as a union at J. Astaphan & Co. Ltd. as required by the laws of the Commonwealth of Dominica,” the Managing Director told the General Secretary of the union in a letter dated May 11, 2022.

Astaphan added that the company does not have a collective labour agreement with the NASWU, nor is the newly established union recognized as the bargaining agent for their employees.

“We have been in communication with the Division of Labour, the Office of the Registrar of the High Court of justice, The Waterfront & Allied Workers’ Union, and the Dominica Employers’ Federation regarding the identity and authenticity of the National Service Workers Union,” Astaphan said. “These departments of Government and organizations, were unable to provide information on the National Service Workers Union’s identity or authenticity.”

Astaphan stated concludes in her letter, that in these circumstances, management of J Astaphan & Co. Ltd. “does not, and cannot recognize the National Service Workers Union or any of its authorized officers. Please be guided accordingly.”

Dominica News Online (DNO) was unsuccessful in its attempts to speak to the General Secretary of NASWU about their next course of action. We will, however, continue to follow this story.

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24 Comments

  1. June 7, 2022

    And yet they gross 65.50 million US in sales. check their profile online

  2. Pipo
    May 19, 2022

    Dear Genevieve, I do not dislike you but ask yourself, could Dominica survive without the company established and made to blossom by your late father. I think the answer is yes. Please, reflect on this and don’t let yourself be hassled by close family.

  3. Dominican Bwoi
    May 19, 2022

    Lol this comment section is hilarious. I commented something about the Astaphans family last month & everybody slapped me, yet judging my the the comments on this article, people agree with the very same comment I made last month. So why was I slapped? Don’t shoot the messenger :roll:

    • Dominican Bwoi
      May 19, 2022

      Judging by*. Typo

  4. ATF
    May 18, 2022

    On one hand it makes sense in that the union may not have been duly organized and accordingly, the management could not verify/recognize their organization. On the other, if this was used as some kind of justification by management to not address the concerns brought up by their employees, then this is an horrendous example of bullying tactics used by a party displaying the plumes of their (much) greater bargaining position. Fix this, Astaphans.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
  5. Real Talk
    May 17, 2022

    Astaphans is a nasty place to work, they have unregulated contracts, low wages and poor treatment of employees. Their HR department is inefficient and there is no structure from management. They are already losing the battle to newer supermarkets, the only thing that has them in the game is the low prices (because they can save with low wages and poor decor). If you are an employee at astaphans and your coworker gets covid, astaphans is MAKING you get a covid test. Some employees have 3+ tests a month (x$65) mandated by astaphans. Their employees get hired with a YEAR of probation, as unoffical lower wage workers? what is that??? Nasty cheap business tactics. Time for their nonsense to stop.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2
  6. Ibo France
    May 17, 2022

    The citizens have been paralyzed by fear and inertia. Government, police and politically well connected business people have done a superb job of energy paying the people.

    Unite, stand up, be fearless, speak with one voice if you are to get your fair share of the country’s resources. You will eventually lose all your constitutional and democratic rights if people like the Astaphans are allowed to get away with this.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
  7. JAH KAL
    May 17, 2022

    Workers stay together don’t give up that fight, for years these people taking advantage of Dominicans . I know people that work there for years and could not make end meet ,and you all have a Donkey in Antigua calling you all ,all kind of insulting name’s if they don’t want to meet you all around the table shut it down until , they owe Dominica a lot of money and the people will stand with you all.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  8. JAH KAL
    May 17, 2022

    Workers stay together don’t give up that fight, for years these people taking advantage of Dominicans . I know people that work there for years and could not make end meet ,and you all have a Donkey in Antigua calling you all ,all kind of insulting name’s if they don’t want to meet you all around the table shut it down until , they owe Dominica a lot of money.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  9. Bwa-Banday
    May 17, 2022

    Ebeh chou Astaphan paytay! It was about time the youth of this country take hold of their future. Masa day was done a longgggggggg time ago. Go NASWU goooooo! But keep your eyes peel on Lil Willy Attorney because he can make Skersker discharge to mongoose gang on you all. Don’t despair……..if they touch one then all shall take serious action. This company has enslaved our people for far too long. It is even ALLEGED that they are selling our passports. They will never be satisfied. Jam them HARD!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  10. Anonymous
    May 17, 2022

    As a major organization as j.Astaphans an as a customer I will refrain an ask my colleagues an family to boycott shopping at asta besides that asta an who ever they are paying to put out these ridiculous post as these are just damn fool.don’t they no by the constitution of the commonwealth of dominica staff or employees have the right to b part of a union or form their union.also if its a newly form union how would other no of its existence.Astaphans have no clue what’s is coming for them next an how wrong they are.I definitely don’t think the union would have just form an not follow the law.an a company is not bigger than the constitution of a country.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  11. Ibo France
    May 17, 2022

    A frequent caller to one of the most popular local talk-shows emphatically and continually calls for the boycott of the Astaphan’s businesses. Many natives vehemently attack him for this. The gentleman is right.

    The Astaphans know that they can treat their Dominican workers with utter contempt because of the appalling state of the economy where unemployment among the youth, may be well over 40% and climbing.One can rest assured that the appropriate organs of government will remain mum on this matter. This is the very reason why members of this family are the staunchest allies of Roosevelt’s regime.

    COURAGE is one of the most important virtues.Her opposite, FEAR, paralyses. Without COURAGE not much would have been accomplished today.We would still be living in the dark ages.

    I said all of that to conclude with this. Dominicans grow a spine. Have COURAGE like our Maroon foreparents. Put on the armour of COURAGE and ‘fight’ to the last man standing.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  12. Congo
    May 17, 2022

    Do you see any Chinese there? Ask yourself a question. Blacks mean, “Labor.”
    I’ve always asked myself this question, why are black peoples the one at the bottom? Our Original homeland is the Rich Continent of Africa; and even at home we are not Free. Does anyone out there, somewhere or anywhere has the answer to my simple question? When the children of Israel 🇮🇱 was returning to their land they had to fight constantly in one battle after the other. Black peoples are complacent sitting on their butts looking for the white man and pale face to save them. If they ever wanted to save you they had almost 500 years in which to do so. So keep sitting on your butt, (Black man) and 1000 years from now you will be met at the same station of grinding. We need warriors, fighters, patriots, men with courage to liberate our people globally. And this could start right here in this small Island of Dominica. Driving blood suckers out ah we Country. Light um fire 🔥pan dem. Free yourself.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
  13. Ibo France
    May 17, 2022

    Greedy, uncaring business people will fight tooth and nail to prevent their workers from becoming unionized. They only want servile employees so they could continue to pay starvation wages; work overtime for free; no pension scheme in place for them; and work under hazardous conditions.

    Workers in Dominica still have the right to unionize. I hope that these beleaguered employees will seek guidance from other labour unions, lawyers, and the Labour Department, to iron out the wrinkles that were pointed out by their employer, in order to satisfy all the legal requirements. One does not fail until he stops trying.

    Do like the story of the Pop & Toot train trying to get over the mountain top. It tried, and tried, and tried again, until it finally succeeded. When you fall down don’t stay down and feel sorry for yourself. Get up! Brush off! Continue your journey till you reach your intended destination. You only fail if you stay down.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
  14. As if U No
    May 17, 2022

    J. Astaphan now realized that its KFC is having a negative effect on workers production so they want them to burn the foreign chicken Oil out of their system. I see folks in the “drive tru” at KFC in a “prestigious” style on their way to buy something that’s loaded with cholesterols which is bad for the heat.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  15. Jonathan Y St Jean
    May 17, 2022

    It’s good that some workers at J Astaphan &Co have taken the initiative to work in their interest. The company is entitled as well to work in its interest. The response of the company executive has given the young and inexperienced workers who initiated the union effort a clear pathway forward to work on to further legitimize and consolidate their initiative. The other existing trade unions in the country should reach out to this infant body and provide it with the necessary blueprint and assistance to help regularize their effort. It’s also clear that the existing unions didn’t do a good job of attempting to represent and address the burning issues of the workers. I hope that management of Astaphan will not retaliate and victimize those workers involved in strategizing and organizing for their benefit. I’m listening to hear the outcome of the ongoing saga. Good luck to the workers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  16. Mosquito 1
    May 17, 2022

    J. Astaphan is a mosquito 🦟 whose belly is filled with blood 🩸 of the poor and that belly must be pricked with a Union Needle or with a syringe 💉 We need Union to put a stop to exploitation at the work places.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0
    • Robby
      May 19, 2022

      Not only Astaphans that other lot as well. Not bad enough that they exploited Dominicans for years but to top it all they are allowed to participate in CBI cash bonanza! It’s time to wake up and smell that fabulous home grown Dominican coffee.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  17. Me
    May 17, 2022

    You shall reap what you sow.

  18. As if
    May 17, 2022

    You want to bam ba?
    You wanna chill with the big boys?

    You forming union inside those people place and it’s not legit. Back to the drawing board or better yet, leave those people place for them.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12
  19. PRO
    May 17, 2022

    ……Allyou, do things right nuh!?!

  20. Enough is Enough
    May 17, 2022

    Do not give up to fight for your rights. Slavery times are over. It is not right that some business owners in Dominica treat their employers like slaves or second class citizens. It’s the people of Dominica that has allowed this to happen over the years. Everything has to come to an end. Treat people with respect and dignity. Do not give up the fight. I will boycott any shop that doesn’t treat It’s staff well. I will also do my best to educate people to do the same. Enough is enough. Message to these business owners (you know who you are): YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS IF YOU DON’T HAVE CUSTOMERS!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0
  21. If we knew better
    May 17, 2022

    While the Union may be needed, Ms. Astaphan is correct. The union needs legal guidance on its operations. It needs to at least be registered on order to be recognized.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9
  22. Wilson
    May 17, 2022

    Don’t back down. Huge credit to those involved for having the balls to do this. Amazon workers unions have set a great example for Dominicans to follow. It’s time the poor treatment and exploitation of workers by companies like Astaphans is met head on. They don’t have to register or call themselves a union, they can be a workers collective specific to Astaphans.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

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