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“My allegiance is to the members who elected me to my trade union.”
Those are the words Civil Service Association (CSA) President Mary Isaac has used to respond to a Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) press release, issued on June 25, which called on her to state whether she was interested in representing civil servants or her own political agenda.
Isaac has brought some sharp criticism on the SLP government in recent times as the administration tries to institute a five percent wage cut on public sector workers in order to address a fiscal deficit of $76 million. Isaac has openly stated her disapproval for not only the manner in which the government has handled the matter but for the reduction in her members’ wages.
In today’s press release, the SLP questioned what it said was “a rather unusual coziness” between the CSA president and the United Workers Party (UWP), questioning her motive in expressing similar sentiments to the party regarding wage negotiations on more than one occasion. The release also pointed to various meetings it said Isaac had held with the UWP, particularly its leader Allen Chastanet. The SLP in its release also criticised Isaac for not attending “critical” meetings with the prime minister and cabinet on the economy which were directly related to the wage cuts.
“It is becoming obvious that Mary Isaac has all the time to meet Allen Chastanet to receive his counsel but has no time to meet the prime minister and Cabinet ministers to discuss the very serious financial situation which faces the country and has implications for the members of her association,” the SLP said.
But speaking in an exclusive interview with Saint Lucia News Online (SNO), Isaac said that while she is dedicated to representing the civil servants under the CSA, who she chooses to meet is her business.
“I am a citizen of St. Lucia and I am free to meet with whomever I please…I am free to do so. So is anybody else in St. Lucia,” she told SNO.
With regard to her non-attendance at certain forums with the government on the economy, Isaac said many of the meetings resulted in no general consensus being reached and that “trade unions who went to the meetings did not get anything from the meetings, neither did the government”.
“The government was looking for consensus, up to today, the government has not had any consensus from anybody. And if they were being genuine, even about those meetings, they would have gone ahead and taken their decisions regardless because we are only one union. Now they are talking about going back to the drawing board,” she said.
She added, “We have an issue of a fiscal deficit. That is a national problem. It is not a trade union problem per say. While the trade union may volunteer to assist, it is not required, it is not mandatory that the trade union resolve this issue for government.”
With regard to the allegation that the CSA had discussed a memorandum of understanding with the UWP to have its executive given diplomatic passports if the party comes into power, Isaac said such discussions never happened.
“That never happened and I am hoping that Mr. Chastanet has lawyers he can use to fight that allegation. … they made some striong comments about that and that is not true, that is an outright lie coming from that level. I believe the people of this country deserve better than that. And all of these people who are using public funds and public office to spread all this innuendos and lies should cease and desist from dong that because really and truly they are utilising public funds to destroy the country themselves because they are spreading lies,” Isaac stated.
“We never had a meeting with Mr [Chastanet]. How can Mr Chastanet as political leader of the opposition go into any memorandum of understanding with anyone offering to give diplomatic passports? There is a process to get diplomatic passports. Nobody knows whether Mr. Chastanet is ever going to be in any political party in any kind of significant way. So how can Mr Chastanet give out a memorandum of understanding? How can anybody in their right minds or any intelligent person sign off on a memorandum of understanding with the leader of a political leader of a party?” she asked.
Isaac further brushed off the SLP’s press release, stating that it was merely the party “just playing old politics”.
“Those things don’t hold anymore because we have the electronic media. We have all kinds of ways and means of justifying or finding out whether something is true or not and verifying information,” she stated.