As the St. Lucia Fire Service Association (SLFSA) continues its protest action, it has reiterated the reasons behind this move.
The SLFSA issued an official statement on its Facebook page yesterday, stressing several points.
The post started out by saying that it is surprising that some of its members are now claiming that they are not aware of the issues, which would have caused firefighters to take the stance.
“We know you do comrades and we won’t hold anything against you for exercising your right to remain on duty. This fight is for all of us, whether you” stood up or not.”
The statement went on to say that the SLFSA will not discriminate or allow the matter to divide its members. However, the association said the issues they are faced with have been lingering for close to seven years and is demanding that they are addressed once and for all.
In highlight of these issues, the SLFSA alleged that the chief fire officer (CFO) wrote to the authorities to have specific doctors assigned to the Fire Service and “other uniformed organisations”, saying if firefighters visited any other doctor apart from those in his recommendation, and receives sick leave, such leave shall be unpaid leave and will further be deducted from the firefighter’s vacation leave.
According to the association, the Service Regulations, Part 1, section 17, asks that vacancies be advertised before recommendations are made to the Ministry of Home Affairs by the CFO, since 1979. To date, three separate permanent secretaries have allegedly written to the CFO on five occasions quoting that law and asking the CFO to advertise vacancies.
“To date, not once has this been done. Yet senior management within the Fire Service says that it is the association that is to be blamed for the lack of promotions since 2009. Yes folks, no promotion for firemen since 2009.”
Whereas the collective agreement between the government and the SLFSA recognises the SLFSA as the only collective-bargaining agent for firefighters, the CFO allegedly wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs making counter proposals on the association’s initial proposal to the GNT.
The association has also alleged that the CFO wrote to the ministry, recommending the removal of an allowance being paid to firefighters, negotiated between the association and the GNT, while totally overlooking the association’s negotiation responsibility to its members.
“Documents addressed to the permanent secretary of Home Affairs Ministry through the CFO were not being forwarded to the ministry by the CFO, but members would receive a response from the CFO,” it added. This, the SLFSA said is a clear violation of section 10.1 of the Staff Orders.
The lack of equal opportunity in promotion, transfers, training, acting appointments are all violations of the Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Employment and Occupation Act, which is another major concern for the association.
“Members were being paid subsistence/relocation allowances contrary to Cabinet Conclusion No. 765 of 1995, while senior officers were being paid the in full compliance.”
The SLFSA alleged that the CFO had instructed members not to copy correspondences dealing with welfare issues and addressed to him, to the SLFSA. The association believes is an attempt to muzzle members.
“Certain members were given over-lapping acting appointments while others overlooked. Even in a case of an acting appointment while the member was on pre-retirement leave.”
Further, the SLFSA said they were being made to pay damages to Fire Service-assigned vehicles involved in vehicular accidents without activating the processes of the government’s accident board.”
The association questioned the reason behind investments such as the US$500 knox boxes, the US$17,000 water pump and gas-guzzling ambulances that have never been used in the Fire Service.
The association added that firefighters continue to resign, retire and be seconded and there are no replacements. Even in light of this, temporary staff continues to be kept on contract.
Firefighters vacation days are also allegedly being taken away from them because they exceeded 21 days of certified sick leave in a year.
“Members continue to perform duties above their substantive ranks without compensation of an honorarium. Junior staff have been suspended and dismissed for similar or less infractions than those committed by senior officers,” the statement added.
The statement ended by saying: “Let’s not fight amongst ourselves. We are not the enemy. Let’s stand up for the better good of all of us. Today’s straight up programme basically confirmed that the Commission of Inquiry was just a sham, to keep us quiet. Not even the recommendations seem credible, according to the host.”