Correctional officers, concerned for their safety due to long-standing unaddressed grievances, say they have received assurances from Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre that he is willing to address them.
On Thursday, the Correctional Services Welfare Association sent a letter to Pierre’s office urging immediate talks with him and a resolution of the outstanding issues that put officers’ safety at risk.
Association Public Relations Officer Yasmin Peter said Pierre had a discussion with the organisation’s President, Kerdi Oscar, on Friday evening.
“The Prime Minister had a meeting over the telephone with the President of our Association, indicating his willingness to work with us to address our various grievances,” Peter told St Lucia Times.
As a result, she said the association executive would work in good faith with the government.
“The Prime Minister would be out of the island, but he has scheduled a meeting with the Minister of Home Affairs and some other persons from the Ministry of Finance. So the executive of the Association will meet with those persons on Monday at 8:30 to further discuss the grievances and see how best they can be addressed in the short, medium, and long term,” Peter explained.
Peter said some pressing issues included access to equipment, specifically radio communication.
She said correctional officers heard promises that they would receive radios on March 31.
But she said the officers have not.
“Imagine one officer or two officers manning a unit with one hundred plus inmates. Imagine maybe two female officers on that unit with 150 male inmates and they do not even have a radio in case of an emergency,” Peter told St Lucia Times.
“They do not even have a fixed line on that unit to make a call,” she stated.
Peter said in the interim correctional officers use mobile telephones.
However, the Association spokeswoman explained that officers might have to make several calls before getting through.
“The radios could save our officers’ lives,” she declared.
In addition, she said correctional officers have staffing concerns.
Peter said although several officers have retired, the vacant positions have not been filled.
“In fact, we learned that we will not be getting any new staff until 2025 and this has our members disgruntled,” she told St Lucia Times.
Peter recalled that the Association had asked its members to be patient, but their concerns have yet to be addressed, although they are willing to work with the government.
She revealed that some issues date back to the collective agreement signed in August 2019.