Members of the St. Lucia Fire Service who recently returned to work after an almost two-week-long industrial action against government, have expressed disappointment with the statement made by President of the St. Lucia Senate Claudius Francis, which seeks to suggest that they should not be paid.
A member of the Fire Service, who requested anonymity, told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) today that all firefighters who took strike action are surprised by the statement made by Francis, even though this matter was already discussed with Deputy Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre and a team of government ministers, and a decision was made in that regard.
The fireman told SNO that executive members from the St. Lucia Fire Service Association (SLFSA) who attended that meeting told its membership that government officials assured the association that was not a matter of contention and brushed aside any thoughts of a reduction in salaries.
“The association said they have never talked along the line of deducting anybody’s pay,” the fireman added.
However, Francis said in a recent television programme that his statement was not specific to the Fire Service, even though the topic of discussion was specifically related to the strike action taken by the firefighters. Francis had said that in his opinion, persons taking strike action should not be compensated for time spent away from work.
The senate president had also said: “You are now telling the 290 that remain… God bless their hearts…that not only are they being rewarded, but that for those of whom they worked are going to get the same remuneration as they did? I think that is a slap in the face to those who stayed on.”
The fireman told SNO that the fact that government allowed the issues to fester for years, they should accept responsibility for it too.
“If they consider cutting firefighters pay then they would be doing it on the basis that they were responsible for us getting to industrial action and making us suffer from the action,” the fireman asserted.
Industrial action is usually the last resort, he reminded.
Members of the public have voiced their opinions on the issue. Some say they believe that a cut in the firefighter’s salary is necessary because they did not provide service during the time spent away from work.
Others believe that once industrial action is taken by any union or association, they should prepare themselves not to receive any pay. A few persons also supported Francis’ statement.
On the other hand, persons argued that in a democratic society people are allowed to take industrial action and this should in no way affect workers’ salaries. Some said that deducting firefighters’ salary is sending a message that people don’t have the right to protest and have their grievances addressed.