Firefighters here in Saint Lucia have ended an eleven day strike, following reassurances by the government that their grievances would be dealt with at the soonest.
The firefighters started protest action here last week, calling for the implementation of recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry into the fire service, which was completed in 2013. However, up until last week, the findings of the report had not been made public, neither were any of the concerns and recommendations addressed.
The strike action created much disruption in the fire service and at times the tension between fireofficers and the hireachy of the fire service appeared quite tense. At least one moment of tension was played out via the media when one fire officer and deputy fire chief Lambert Charles exchanged words over a pen. Last Sunday, before leaving the island prime minister Kenny Anthony addressed the situation. Among his solutions was a transfer of the fire chief Leslie Fontenelle to the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports Authority. For some time now there appeared to be much tension between the fire chief and head of the fire association Shane Felix.
However, even after the prime minister’s call for calm, firefighters continued their protest action up until Thursday.
On Thursday, a meeting was held between the executive of the St. Lucia Fire Service Welfare Association (SLFSWA) and Acting Prime Minister Philip J Pierre. (prime minister Kenny Anthony was out of state). The talks were also attended by National Security and Home and Legal Affairs Minister, Philip La Corbiniere, and Public Service Minister James Fletcher. Damien Jn Baptiste of the SLFSWA has since told reporters that details of the agreement would be released on Friday (yesterday) after a meeting with the membership. But up until going to press we had not received any statement from the association.
However minutes after the meeting Thursday the STAR received a press release from the prime minister’s press secretary Jadia Jn Pierre Emannuele. According to the statement, the meeting provided an avenue for discussion and agreement on the way forward, which included the involvement of the Saint Lucia Fire Service Welfare Association in the process, which would lead to the development of a Promotions Policy for the Saint Lucia Fire Service.
We were also informed that other matters discussed included the provision of access to the office of the association at the Headquarters, a review of the terms and conditions for auxiliary fire fighters and the activation of an Honorarium Committee to duly recognize staff who are performing duties above their ranks.
Clarification was also provided on the secondment of the Chief Fire Officer and the announcement of a review of the operations and
management of the Saint Lucia Fire Service by a team of British experts.
The meeting also agreed that the Ministries of the Public Service and Home Affairs and the Saint Lucia Fire Service shall develop a mechanism to respond to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
In the end, there was an agreement that members would resume normal duties as of 5:00pm on Thursday.