CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Tuesday March 19, 2013 – Civil servants stayed away from their jobs on Monday disrupting several government services and ignoring appeals from Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony and the main private sector organisation to end their industrial dispute over increased salaries.
The workers, represented by the Civil Service Association (CSA) had voted over the weekend to stay away from their jobs after rejecting the latest offer of four per cent and a package of other benefits that had been accepted by police, teachers, firemen and nurses, all of whom are members of the Trade Union Federation (TUF) that groups the public service unions.
The civil servants, chanting the union’s solidarity song, are insisting on a 9.5 per cent wage hike for the 2010-13 period that the government said it cannot meet.
Their action Monday severely curtailed operations at several departments including Customs and judicial services and CSA president Mary Issac warned that the action could escalate “until we hear something from our employer.”
She said that while workers at the Air Traffic Control Department stayed on the jobs Monday because it is deemed an essential service and under the law, 30 day notice is given for industrial action, she was nonetheless pleased with the number of civil servants who stayed away from their jobs.
Issac said the CSA had also received solidarity messages from the TUF members “because they understand that some of the benefits they got do not come down to the benefit of the CSA”.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Anthony urged the workers to desist from taking industrial action and putting the island under further economic strain.
The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture Monday “categorically” condemned the strike action and called on the parties to continue working towards a settlement.
“The Chamber has noted that all other members of the TUF have arrived at an agreement with the Government and we applaud the negotiators on this success. We are confident that the CSA and the GNT (Government Negotiating Team) can conclude an agreement as well and we encourage the use of the Arbitration process as part of the continued negotiations.”
The Chamber’s executive director Brian Louisy said that “neither strike action nor the back-tracking on offers previously on the table are helpful in arriving at a conclusion” adding that the private sector organisation is reminding the CSA that St. Lucia “like many countries globally, faces difficult and unprecedented economic challenges which call for reasonableness and responsibility at this time.
“The economy cannot afford the impact of industrial action, nor should we subject the citizens and the economy to such action.”
Louisy said that since the CSA believes that an impasse has been arrived at, the logical next step is to go to arbitration.
“ It is unacceptable for a small group to hold the entire country hostage to achieve their narrow interests. The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture urges to CSA to do the responsible thing and call off the strike and return to the negotiating table.
“Our Country is in a precarious position and needs men and women of goodwill to step forward and put Country before self, especially in this most sensitive matter. Once again the Chamber places its good office at the disposal of the parties to bring this matter to a peaceful and amicable conclusion,” he added.