(SNO) — The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) is accusing the United Workers Party (UWP) administration of incompetence for refusing to implement recommendations it made while in power that would improve the working conditions of the fire service and workers on a whole on the island.
Presently, firefighters in Saint Lucia are on strike over negotiations for wage increases for the 2016-2019 triennium and for matters the said have been affecting them for decades.
Chairman of the Saint Lucia Firefighters Association (SLFA) Shane Felix, told MBC Prime this week that both the UWP and the SLP have failed firefighters.
However, leader of the SLP, Philip J Pierre, said on the Wednesday that it is actually the UWP that has to be blamed since that party refused to implement initiatives started by the SLP.
“As we all know, elections were held on June 6, 2016, and a new administration took responsibility of governance from June 7, 2016. It is clear that the UWP, as is the case in many other issues, refused to pay attention or implement worthy initiatives started by the Saint Lucia Labour Party,” Pierre said.
According to him, firefighters took strike action September 2014 and the then SLP administration responded.
“I as acting prime minister chaired a meeting with representatives of the Association and the following were agreed to,” he stated.
1. “the involvement of the Saint Lucia Fire Service in the process which would lead to the development of a Promotions Policy for the Saint Lucia Fire Service;”
2. “the provision of access to the office of the Association at the Headquarters, a review of the terms and conditions for auxiliary firefighters and the activation of an Honorarium Committee to duly recognize staff who are performing duties above their ranks;”
3. “the Ministries of the Public Service and Home Affairs and the Saint Lucia Fire Service shall develop a mechanism to respond to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace;”
Pierre stated the fire service workers ended the 14-day strike immediately.
Additionally, he said more action was taken by the the SLP to fulfill its agreement with the firefighters.
He listed them as follows:
1. The matter of access to the office of the Association at the Headquarters was resolved.
2. The Ministry of the Public Service appointed an Honorarium Committee and cleared up those who were deemed eligible for receipt of honoraria.
3. The Ministry of the Public Service established a Committee to work with the Fire Service Association on mechanisms to respond to the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. The team included:
* Ms. Lilia Auguste, Negotiations Unit, Public Service (Chairperson);
* Ms. Charms Gaspard, Director of Gender Relations, Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations;
* Ms. Elizabeth Bailey, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security; and
* A Representative of the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association.
Pierre said the report was completed in 2016 and is in the possession of the Ministry.
4. Regarding the development of a Promotions Policy for the Fire Service, the following team was established to work with the Fire Service:
* Mr Duane Louisy, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Public Service;
* Mrs. Pamela Deterville, Director, Organizational Development Division, Ministry of the Public Service;
* Mrs Elizabeth Bailey, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security;
* Mr. Lambert Charles, Acting Chief Fire Officer; and
* A Representative of the Fire Service Association.
“Given the nature of the challenges confronting the Fire Service, the Government of Saint Lucia agreed to undertake a comprehensive review of the structure, operations, promotions policy and overall organization of the Saint Lucia Fire Service,” Pierre stated. “Toward that end, the assistance of the British Government was sought. The engaged entity submitted a Report on the Strategic Assessment of the Saint Lucia Fire Service. Cabinet considered the Report in April of 2016, and approved the following:
1. The appointment of a team comprising Mr Phillip Dalsou, Dr Cletus Bertin and Dr Lisa Charles, to develop a matrix to assign responsibilities for the implementation of the accepted recommendations; and
2. That the report is forwarded to Chief Fire Officer and the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association for their comments, which Cabinet is to receive by 30th May 2016.
Additionally, Pierre said the SLP had made moves to improve the conditions of work for fire service workers by the construction of several fire stations including the Babonneau Fire Station that was completed in 2016 but was left closed by the UWP government for nearly two years.
He now believes that all the issues affecting the firefighters lay at the feet of the UWP.
“The neglect to implement the recommendations that would improve the working conditions of the Fire Service since 2016 is the direct result of UWP incompetence and their callous disregard for the workers of the country,” Pierre said.