Fire Service still faced with high levels of employee absence

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Fire Service still faced with high levels of employee absence
Lambert Charles.
Lambert Charles.

The St. Lucia Fire Service (SLFS) is plagued with a number of issues, but the most critical one is the high level of absenteeism, which is mainly caused by increasing numbers of sick leave taken by firefighters.

Acting Fire Chief Lambert Charles told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) today that between the period January to June, the Fire Service has received some 822 sick leave and 597 un-certified leave.

This figure does not include the period July to December, which when calculated will determine the annual total number of certified and uncertified sick leave taken by firefighters island-wide.

“I have written and spoken about it. I don’t really have any mechanism to deal with it and this is not something unique to the Fire Service,” Charles explained.

According to him, several other government agencies are crippled by the same manner in which public servants apply for this specific type of leave.

Asked to what extent this issue has affected the Fire Service, Charles said it has already affected not only the main office, but fire stations located in different parts of the island.

“Supervisors are not sure what their staffing levels would be on a daily basis, so that affects response, training and preparation,” he lamented.

Charles noted however that it is very unusual for the Fire Service to record such high levels of “uncertified leave”, but recent figures indicate that there has been a large increase.

While the acting fire chief was reluctant to speak more on the issue, there have been reports that firefighters are taking advantage of the uncertified leave and in most cases abuse the system.

It was reported that having recognised this issue, the leadership of the Fire Service had recommended that firefighters are referred to specific medical doctors to issue them a sick leave, because there is a possibility that these certificates could be obtained without proper reason.

However, the St. Lucia Fire Service Association (SLFSA) had claimed that this is a violation of firefighters right to seek medical attention from their personal doctors and a decision can only be made in this regard in consultation with the association.

It is speculated that the firefighters take advantage of this arrangement, especially since they are not required to submit a medical certificate only after three days.

The strike action taken by the firefighters during the month of September has also caused the total number of sick leave to increase. Over 100 firefighters were away from work for close to one week.

Apart from its core responsibility, the Fire Service is also in charge of providing emergency ambulance services, making them a key part of the health-response team on the island.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Dear ginger: would you take a man off the street to perform surgery on you or prescribe medication? Why are some people so dumb to think 'fire them' is the solution. Who cares about the serious ones who have mortgages and children etc? Problems need to be addressed with solutions. At least make a valuable or sensible contribution. A simple example, the ambulance usually gets on scene way before police who have GUNS, BULLET PROOF VESTS etc. We really need an Untold Stories done on the Fire Service. The work isn't always easy but most of the public wouldn't last a week doing what we do.

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  2. Fire their asses and get freaking committed people to work! You all are losing the support of the public bcuz you all are doing shate. Stop making freaking excuses why you aint at work and pass your lazy asses to get the job done. Which job doesnt have its fair share of stresses. Name one!! it isnt ok to repeatedly not show up for work. Kenny needs to start downsizing your asses. Kenny get moving!!

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  3. What am I hearing? Is it true that whilst Mr Fontinelle is on secondment at SLASPA his previous post remains vacant in the Fire Dept until further review (which is at the discretion of the authourities). So you'll transfer him with a promise to come back by keeping the post untouchable. Let us see what the outcome of the Public Service investigation on the matter of alleged sexual harrassment and fraud against him will be?

    Government officials are making big borbol filling their pockets and we continue to sit on our @&% while they raise the taxes to pay for the government loans...yes the loans. You'll think we just get money from other countries for nutting eh. Can you tell me when last the government invested in any multi million dollar businesses which has up to today sustained and continues to sustain itself bringing some sort of economic value to this country? But yet they are spending money on all kind of non revenue generating infrastructure because it is easier to get financing for such projects. Just like it's easier to get a loan to purchase a vehicle and more difficult to purchase property.

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  4. This is baffling, here is a man who supposedly is entrusted with the responsibility of managing the fire dept after such an unprecedented controversy and the first thing he does is an act of defaming the department tantermont to debunking public trust.
    Mr. Lambert charles is suppose to be seeking to gain the trust of firefighters and stirring them in the direction of maintaining productivity but his actions in the media amounts to the total opposite.
    The public service commission continues to let people manage departments even when such individuals continue to make a mockery of their position. How much farther does a man have to go at proving his ineptitude before the commission steps in to arrest waste and lack of productivity?
    I think some one has already made his issue of sick leave in the department one of pure mathematical stupidity but let me say as well the medical fraternity in St. Lucia needs to address Me. Charles in regards to his utter disrespect to the practice and for alleging that some are unscrupulous.
    And yes public servants, Mr. Charles has also crossed departmental boundaries to highlight tgat you as well behaving unseemingly where sick leave is concerned. It must be that He knows something about you. Maybe you have been abusing the system, maybe only specific doctors should be allowed to issue sick leave to you? You tell me!

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  5. Mr . Charles u are not learning. Sick leave is part of the job .need to look into the welfare of the men u supervise. Not take people pen. Smh

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  6. And the bullshit piles up....With the extent of the allegations waged against management in the Fire Service. This man has the audacity to "pose" and continue this regime of high handed dispensation on fire fighters which are so crucial for the mitigation of emergencies in the country. This is not only in the fire dept but by far the situation there is the worst i have seen in the public service. Like someone said earlier on "there are rotten eggs everywhere" but you can either get rid of it or stay in the smell. The men leading that dept have no vision which is now potrayed in their adamant abuse of authourity as they continue to oppress their very own staff. There will be more upheaval and discourse concerning these injustices and Mr Fontinelle is just the beginning....It's high time we lucians stop accepting mediocrity and take control of the future of our country. This is not like the time when you'll use to fool the uneducated farmers and wipe the floor with them. Continue riding your high horses.

    We will not forgive...We will not forget......We are coming

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  7. We are saying no jobs and people who feel their jobs are secure form the fool while some people out there would kill for it.Damn!!!

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  8. Really Joe Cherry? That's if you even know how many house fires or otherwise like rubbish, bush, vehicle fires we had only this week? If you are referring to putting put a fire before it destroys a house, then just google how fast a fire spreads or engulfs a room. For your information it's a few minutes dummy. So if the house isn't within that reach in minutes then all we get to do is put out the ashes or prevent the spread(yes I'm a firefighter). Yet another place management ment is lacking. The public after so many years has no idea about fires, ambulance calls or our operations. Yes there are bad eggs but that happens everywhere. Some like myself love the job and do our best but what of those try but or are discouraged because of the conditions that persist within the organisation.

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    • That is my point exactly. By the time you get there the all you have is ashes. Which means they way forward is to change the way things are done, possibly substations in certain areas. Some houses will still not be saved, that's just a reality. Fire safety classes in the communities might help, you would be surprised how many people don't know some basic fire prevention measures. We need innovation, and that starts at the top. Unfortunately the top brass have no new ideas and have already lost the trust of their employees. The government need to take the revamping of the fire service seriously.

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  9. What is wrong with Mr Lambert Charles? Sick leave is the "most critical issue" in the Fire Service? Wow!! Of all the issues in the department, you are telling me that this is the most critical issue. I will get back later to show that sick leave is not an issue in the department as claimed by Mr Charles. As a matter of fact the Fire service has one of the lowest number of sick leave days per employee in the Gov't Service.

    But first let me mention some of the more critical issues in the department which it seems Mr Charles is not aware of:(1) Equipment : we lack the proper equipment to do the job. (2) Manpower: every month we have employees leaving due to resignation, retirement or pension with no replacements from Gov't. (3) Fire fighting gear: at present there are a number of firefighters who lack the proper firefighting gear to respond to fires eg: fire jackets etc. (4) Promotion : although a number of supervisors has left the service, there has not been promotions for over three 3 years, yet there are close to thirty 30 vacant post in the department. (5) Excess working hours: whereas the labour code states that an employee should work a maximum of 42hrs a week, firefighters work 56hrs a week, so that's a total of 48 hrs extra every month, which would equal a total of six 6 days extra. (taking into consideration a working day is eight 8 hours). (6) Duties above Post: at present a number of personnel have to carry out duties above their present post without compensation due to vacant positions not being filled. (7) There is a rift within Senior Management which is so bad that some of them don't speak to each other. (8) Victimization: Junior staff are victimized by Senior Officers because they refuse to kiss butt. (9)Fire Service Head Quarters: we were promise a Head quarters with proper training facilities seven 7 years ago when we move from Jeremie street, up to this day we continue to rent a building which lack proper facilities. (10) Different strokes for different folks: we continue to experience this treatment as pointed out in the Prime Minister's address on the Fire Service. (11) Presently with the EBOLA crisis firemen are yet to receive training in that field. I can go on and on but as I said I need to address the sick leave issue which Mr Charles said is the most critical.

    First of all the law states that employees are entitled to no more than twelve 12 UNCERTIFIED sick leave days a year. So let's see if firemen are really abusing this. According to Mr Charles, for the period Jan to June firemen have taken 597 un-certified sick leave days. Now there are about 280 fire personnel in the service. So that means for that six 6 month period firemen recorded an average of 2.1 days per person. So if the trend continue for the remaining six months that would be an average of four 4 un-certified days per person in an entire year. Is that abuse? Remember that you are allowed twelve 12 days in a year. Honestly with all the issues in that department, I am surprise that firemen are not recording their full 12 days in a year. Now I challenge Mr Charles to get a lower uncertified sick leave rate in any other Gov't department for a year.
    Now let's go to the CERTIFIED sick leave. Mr Charles stated that the records show a total of 822 certified sick leave days for Jan to June. Now I don't want to comment much on the Certified sick leave because the last time I checked certified sick leave is issued to someone by a registered MEDICAL DOCTOR after examining them. I would hate to believe that Mr Charles is now questioning the Credibility of the doctors in St Lucia. In any case let's see the amount of Certified sick leave days taken by firemen in a year. Mr Charles stated that 822 days were recorded from Jan to June. Well that would amount to an average of just under six 6 days per person in an entire year. Is that abuse when the law allows you 28 days in the year under normal circumstances and much more for prolong illnesses. Again I challenge Mr Charles to get a better record per year in other Gov't departments. Mr Charles Charles with all the issues in the department you head, maybe if you try to solved some of them the sick leave may even drop lower.

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  10. Sooo it`s not unique to the fire department yet still u feel the need to talk about it.Why are firemen always sick? Does it have to do with the excess hrs worked? The workload which is too much because they are understaffed ? or is it because there is no system in place to deal with the stresses of the work place.For all those talking,i can assure u that u wouldn`t last a week.

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  11. If there is suspicion of these abundant
    and uncertified seek leaves put our intelligence to work and investigate, beginning with the doctors who issue those leaves. By the way this is not confined just to the fire department but public servants in general.

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  12. It takes someone with guts to stand for their rights when persons of authority take advantage of them. It's high time that persons are respected. If we learn to respect one another then things will work much better.

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  13. You want to know why? It's because of bad management. This deputy should have gone with the chief too. There needs to be a complete overhaul within this organization, starting from the top down, not bottom up.

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  14. Can't understand why this creature is in the news every other week airing his department's dirty laundry unless it's to shift focus from his men's plight? hmm food for thought. As I understand it so does the police and other ministries have high sick leave. But they don't broadcast it. He must think he is special doping dumb shit like this.

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    • Stop being an idiot. Who says we have it easy. Why don't you get off your high horse and come work for a night? Who feels it knows. And bird will stop at nothing to shift the focus from their wrongdoings. Right now if a firefighter farts too loud it will be headlines.

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      • I was a firefighter in ST.Lucia for 4years then moved to Canada where I've been a firefighter for 18 years so I know what it takes to be 1 it takes commitment respect for authority and ones self not self promotion because unlike many other jobs firefighting is a team job not one to be fighting each other so I beg you my bro and sis in ST.Lucia stop this fussing and fighting and get your act together and regain the trust and respect of each other and the public may GOD guide and bless you good luck and peace

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  15. why dont some of you who talk all this garbage volunteer for a night to go on runs and possibly go fight a fire and then come back on here and comment. until youve walked a mile in a firemans shoes you wont know his struggles

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  16. This is stemming from a culture of BS!! been going on for to long!! fighting fires is suppose to be a work done with courage and honor but thats lacking!! I say fire them and replace them with the serious ones who respect the work!!