Published On: Mon, Feb 25th, 2013

Union assembly disrupts public services in St Lucia

Melanius AlphonseCASTRIES, St Lucia – On the eve of celebrating Saint Lucia’s 34th independence on Friday, the Teachers Union Federation, (TUF) held a series of meetings in the city of Castries with its umbrella unions. The purpose of last Thursday’s meetings was to update the general membership on the ongoing negotiation with the government negotiation team (GNT) on wages and benefits.

The parties had been unable to reach a settlement by February 15th which president Julian Monrose suggested was a soft and satisfactory timeframe to complete negotiations. To date, the GNT is offering 4% over a three year period, which the TUF has rejected, sticking to their demand of a 9.5% from their previous request of 16%. Outstanding issues include three years’ back-pay, pension issues and concessions on vehicles for traveling offices; and access to purchase government lands at a reduce cost to meet members housing needs.

If these conditions can be met, the TUF has indicated that a final settlement between 6-7% would conclude to the satisfaction of members.

As a result of these meetings, the attending members were away from their designated working environment.

This lead to interruptions and confusion at most of the island schools, government offices and the customs and excise departments island wide - leaving students, business and citizens with limited to no access to government services throughout most of Thursday. Fridays was a public holiday in Saint Lucian, Independence Day.

All of this is happening on the heels of increased inflation and the introduction of 15% VAT on October 1st 2012. Very soon the cost of public transportation is expected to increase along with a propose rate application from the Water and Sewage Authority (WASCO) for a 66.15% increase in water rates and 140.30% for sewer services to take effect before March 31st2013.

The TUF activities led to a quick press release from the prime minister’s office on Thursday, saying “Business as usual - The Government of Saint Lucia notes the wave of anxiety that has swept over the nation on the eve of the observance of our island’s thirty fourth Anniversary of Independence, as a result of reports of a planned sickout by public officers. In light of the volume of calls and messages placed to the Office of the Prime Minister, expressing uncertainty about the availability of Government Services to the public on Monday February 25, 2013, the Prime Minister wishes to state that Government offices will remain open for business.”

Following the TUF meetings, Monrose indicated that most members are extremely sick, upset and stressed at GNT and would not be surprised if members reported sick on Monday and Tuesday.

A follow-up meeting to update the general membership and to discuss the way forward is schedule for Wednesday, February 27. ***

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