CSA ‘prepared to go the distance!’

Members of the Civil Service Association have made good on their threats to take strike action following the refusal of the government to meet their demands of a 9.5 percent wage increase. This week government offices were running on skeleton staff, however, it is still unclear how effective the strike has been on halting government business altogether.
As the STAR visited government offices this week it was clear that some government workers continued to do their duties while other departments were left unmanned.
“I have a lot of work to do,” one man told us when approached. “I not getting involved in no politics,” he went on as he scanned the room for peering eyes.
The CSA, which represents 90 percent of the public sector, is among the bodies that did not accept the government’s four percent offer. Teachers and police officers have indicated their willingness to accept the offer and move on.
The strike action has caused reaction, however, from the business community, which is expected to be adversely affected. In a statement, The St Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture publicly condemned the decision taken by the CSA.
According to the Chamber, the ongoing impasse could cripple the country’s economy. They also warned that the back peddling by the CSA on previous proposals would not aid in reaching a resolution. The Chamber also pointed out that the remaining members of the Trade Union Federation had all come to terms and expressed the hope that the CSA could follow suit.
In response to the Chamber’s statement, CSA president Mary Isaac refuted claims of ‘backtracking’ by her union stating that they have maintained the same position from the beginning.
“We had 9.5 percent, then we had 6 % percent plus benefits, 5 percent plus benefits, 4.5 percent plus benefits. You say you’re not taking any of those. We have to go back to that one (4%). We don’t have to accept yours because we had two offers on the table. So this is what we did. It’s not going back,” she told the STAR on Monday afternoon.
Isaac also expressed frustration with the Trade Union Federation’s decision to settle quickly.
Did she feel abandoned by the TUF?
“What should have happened really is that the TUF should have kept negotiating,” she said. “Everybody go back to that position and renegotiate. Instead, the TUF had decided to become non-existent. So we don’t know. We’re waiting to hear from them or our employer and that’s the government. But another thing is when we went to present our case with the TUF last Thursday, we were told government cannot deal with us as an entity, but they’ve already set precedent by dealing with the police, so what gives?”
Isaac also lauded members of the other unions comprising the TUF for their support
and believes that their acceptance of the government’s offer was a result of misinformation.
“We are standing in solidarity because I believe a lot of them were misinformed. They were led to believe that since police have accepted then it’s a done deal,” she opined.
Isaac declared that the CSA is “prepared to go the distance” with the strike.
“We are waiting because to us the process was not complete. The process to arrive where they are at, we don’t understand. What we are fighting for is based on due process and there has not been due process. From the beginning of the negotiations the employer has failed to negotiate on good faith.”
There is one thing, however, that both the Chamber and Isaac can agree upon—a peaceful resolution is imperative.
“I am hoping that we can settle this amicably before any more damage is caused to the country,” she said.
Meanwhile, at press time prime minister Kenny Anthony had yet to comment on the losses to government caused by the strike action.

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