(SNO) — Labour Minister\ Stephenson King has accused the Saint Lucia Firefighters Association (SLFA) of violating a collective agreement made between itself and the government as a SFLA strike continues on the island.
He said in a statement that the matter has to be determined, however, he personally believes that the firefighters have failed to comply to the agreement.
His remarks came as industrial action by firefighter continues over wage negotiations for the 2016-2019 triennium and what the SFLA described as “long running issues” faced by the fire service.
In a letter on March 15, King had already told the SFLA that the strike action, which started last week, was illegal and therefore members should report to work immediately.
Apparently his words were not heeded by the firefighters and this time he is going further.
“I must say, however, that from all indications, until I am advised otherwise, it would appear that the association has violated the collective agreement,” King said.
According to King, Article 38:2 of the agreement addresses grievance procedures, saying that “whenever any grievance arises there there shall be no interruption of work or other violation of this agreement of any kind on account thereof but the same shall be settled as promptly as possible in the following manner”.
“So it is to determine whether the officers have violated as I say, the agreement, which I believe they have because it calls for not interrupting the work of the fire service,” he stated. “And that is necessary in this agreement because the labour code is very silent on such matters and in fact, does not apply to the public service and such protective services.”
King said as labour minister, he will soon give a clear position on where the government stands on the situation.
He also pointed to matters being raised by the SLFA, adding that they dated back to 1996 and describing them as “old wounds”.
“Matters pertaining to administrative issues, grievances within the administration of the fire service and matters already addressed by the Commission Report,” he said. “The Commission report which was done some time after 2012 when the government indicated there was a need to conduct a commission of inquiry. That report which was concluded in 2013, addressed a number of issues which certainly the past administration and this administration has attempted to deal with.”