Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has written to the head of the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association, asserting that the government expects that striking firefighters will immediately return to work.
The letter followed discussions between the association and Labour Minister, Stephenson King, to discuss outstanding unresolved matters affecting firefighters.
Chastanet wrote association President, Shane Felix, to ‘confirm’ a number of matters including the immediate return to work ‘in order to correct the breach of the Association’s’ obligations within the Collective Agreement’ with the government.
In the March 20, 2019 document, the PM said his administration is not insensitive to the concerns of the firefighters.
He observed that considering the importance of ensuring the reliability and availability of the services provided by the Fire Department to preserve the health and safety of the nation, the government has agreed to to give immediate consideration to measures to be confirmed by a cabinet conclusion.
Included in the measures is the appointment of an ‘Oversight Committee’ to review ‘ the Matrix of Recommendations pursuant to Cabinet Conclusion No. 49 of 2017 and to oversee the implementation of the approved measures.’
Chastanet wrote that the Oversight Committee would comprise the Deputy Permanent Secretary – Department of Public Service, Permanent Secretary – Department of Home Affairs, a representative from the Labour Department, a representative of the Saint Lucia Employers, a representative from the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association and the Chief Fire Officer or his nominee.
The committee is expected to develop and submit to cabinet for consideration within 30 days, an action plan showing implementation timelines.
“Government is committed to review the policy and procedures in the Fire Service regarding probationary employment and to implement an arrangement similar to what obtains in the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force,” the Prime Minister stated in his letter.
He explained that the Oversight Committee will give early consideration to come up with an implementation plan for several measures, described as ‘low hanging fruit.’
These included reclassification for firefighters, a promotions policy and payment of honourarium for officers performing duties above their rank or grade, a policy on transfer and relocation and a review of existing legislation governing the Fire Service.
The letter also mentioned the waiver of driver’s licence for authorised drivers.
According to Chastanet, the government remains committed to its ongoing efforts to improve the working conditions for all workers.
He wrote that the current administration stands ready to work with the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association in that regard.