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(SNO) — Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Labour Stephenson King met Thursday evening with the executive of the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association in regards to the ongoing strike action by firefighters across the island.
King, who is acting prime minister while Allen Chastanet attends a regional meeting, made the disclosure on his Facebook page under the heading “A Government who listens – We are committed to workers”.
He also wrote: “This Administration of #Workers will ensure that the country continues to run at its optimum at all times, while addressing the plight of state workers. We are listening!”
King added: “Rest assured we will do what is necessary to maintain peace and tranquility in the industrial climate of the country at all times. #TeamWorkers #MakingSaintLuciaBetter”
It is not yet clear what resolution came out of the meeting, as the minister gave no such indication in his social media post.
The firefighters gave the government notice that they were taking industrial action from March 13, over the vexing issue of salary negotiations for the 2016 to 2019 triennium and other matters facing the fire service.
They took the decision on Tuesday at a meeting at the Vieux Fort Fire Station, which is attached to the Hewannora International Airport.
President of the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association, Shane Felix, told HTS News via telephone on Tuesday that the matter has to do with issues confronting the fire service and salary negotiations, which he said seems to “be dragging almost at the end of the triennium”.
He said this has been a great concern to firefighters for a very long time since salary negotiations have been ongoing for six years and some of the matters facing the service have been ongoing for decades.
“We have considered those issues and we have informed the Ministry of Public Service that pending any serious action by the employer, that as of tomorrow, March 13, that the fire officers will remain at home until the employer is ready to come back to the negotiation table…” he said.
He said the association is also demanding that the government set up a task force with the responsibility to look into the outstanding issues and show that it is serious in resolving them.
Felix also said the matter is very serious for firefighters and morale is low.
“And there is this underlying issue of certain people who seemed to be favored over others,” he stated. “The minority being favored, the majority not and so those are some of the concerns…”
A letter on the industrial action was given to permanent secretary in the Ministry of the Public Service, Peggy-Ann Soudatt. It was signed by the President of the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association, Shane Felix.
Several unions on the island have been at loggerheads with the government for salary negotiations of the triennium.
On Monday, the Civil Service Association walked silently through the streets of Castries to vent their frustration over the matter.
The Saint Lucia Teachers Union (SLTU) has also expressed its frustration, saying nothing is being done despite several proposals submitted to the government.