(SNO) — With an impasse between firefighters and government still ongoing, Chairman of the Saint Lucia Firefighters Association (SLTA), Shane Felix, said both the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) and opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) have failed them.
The firefighters are presently on strike over wage negotiations and other matters, which they say have been affecting the service for decades now, and there have been no concrete commitment “from any side”.
“And that has been my concern really as chairman,” he told MBC Prime. “It is that there has been no real effort from any side to show that what we are saying is genuine, what we are saying is true and there are serious effects for fire officers, for Saint Lucians on the whole.”
He stated that it is time Saint Lucians understand how “callous that the authorities continue to act showing no regard to who we are as a people”.
Felix told MBC that the same problems existed in 2014 when the SLP was in power and firefighters took industrial action for about 14 days.
They returned to work after meeting with then acting prime minister, Philip J. Pierre, but he said the firefighters were deceived.
“We were deceived in 2014 and this is deja vu,” he stated, referring to the impasse with the current UWP administration. “We are going through the same process: we promise, we commit, we understand, we know the seriousness but nothing to it.”
He stated that in the 2014 meeting with Pierre, it was promised that a committee would be set up to look into the implementation of a sexual harassment policy and a committee to look into a promotion policy but nothing has happened since then.
“There were talks about improving the relationship between management and the association and the general staff, for regular meetings and so on between us and the various ministries,” Felix said. “Nothing. We have nothing to show for it and so for this current administration to be saying the very same things to us, we would be the fools to go in there and say yes the authorities have committed to this and so we are going back to work.”
Meanwhile, Felix told MBC that at a meeting between the association and the Government Negotiating Team, they were informed that the government would not negotiate under duress and the firefighters should return work.
He said the matter would be conveyed to the general membership of the SLFA.