The Chairperson of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB), Agnes Francis, has said that the transition of the board to a Tourism Authority is for the general good of the country and the tourism industry.
She spoke against the backdrop of concerns about the fate of staff who have been targeted for termination.
“This is not a fight – it is going to happen and we want it to happen in a way that will have the least impact on the staff as possible, Francis told a news conference Friday.
She observed that most of the members of staff at the SLTB are her friends.
“A lot of them I hired when I was the Director of Tourism and I have a personal responsibility to them so this is not about me being callous, this is not about me being unkind; but it is for the general good of the country and the industry,” Francis declared.
She said she had to put on her ‘big man’ pants and deal with it.
Francis indicated that the private sector will play a bigger role in managing the tourism sector with the transition of the SLTB to a Tourism Authority.
“The idea is since the financing will come from the visitors, the private sector needs to have a bigger role in terms of the management and decision making for the Tourism Authority,” Francis told the news conference.
She asserted that in countries where tourism is successful, Tourist Boards no longer exist.
“What you will find is a more corporate approach towards the management of the sector,” Francis explained.
She said given the role that tourism is expected to play in the local economy, Saint Lucia has no choice but to look for a better management structure for the tourism industry.
“We are in the process of undertaking that transition,” the SLTB Chairperson disclosed.
Francis said the SLTB had followed the guidelines outlined in the labour code.
She said both the Labour Commissioner and the Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA) have been written to by the SLTB.
“We have not yet had dialogue with them; we are waiting for them to come back,” Francis stated.
The CSA has expressed concern about the fate of some 28 SLTB workers that it represents.
The union had also expressed concern that a meeting with the SLTB had not materialized.
However Francis said the SLTB is free to meet with the union.
She explained that staff have been continuously updated about what is going on.
“Free and fair dialogue, free and open dialogue is what I expect and what I intend to do,” Francis said, adding that the SLTB intends to adhere to all the provisions of the labour code and the union agreement in terms of staff terminations.
She said the government has confirmed that all the jobs that will become available in the new Tourism Authority will be open to staff members who will be given priority.
Francis revealed that two critical issues for her were to ensure that staff are compensated in the correct way and ensure that they have first access to whatever opportunities are available.