Repeated refusals of appointment despite being qualified, having others less qualified assuming your position, and not even being chosen to act in said position during absences. Is a member of the St Lucia Fire Service being intentionally blackballed? That is the claim being made by President of the St Lucia Fire Service Association Shane Felix with regard to Eve Albert, a long serving member of the service who has been repeatedly overlooked for promotion to the field she was trained in: fire investigation. It is an oversight made even more glaring by the fact that Albert’s qualifications were used to demonstrate need for the position.
“Eve Albert pursued a diploma in Fire Investigation in Canada in 2008. Since her return in that year, she has yet to be appointed to do any fire investigation. When she returned her name and qualifications were used to get two new positions for the St Lucia Fire Service, positions of fire investigators. The government approved those positions and asked for recommendations to be made for persons to fill those positions. When those recommendations were made however, Eve Albert’s name was nowhere to be seen,” said Felix. He continued.
“Instead two persons who were sent to St Croix for a week to do a fire investigation course were appointed to those positions. And in the recommendations the Chief Fire Officer deliberately exaggerated on the persons qualifications and gave them the opportunity over Eve Albert. One person he said had a first degree and the other a diploma. None of those persons have such qualifications. They were appointed to the positions.”
Dumbfounded by the actions, the Fire Service Association requested an investigation by the Ministry of the Public Service and a recommendation was made by that committee of investigators for Albert to be promoted to the next rank in the department. The Chief Fire Officer in response wrote to the Ministry citing reasons as to why Albert should not be promoted, which included her lack of managerial skills and recent promotion as leading firewoman. Felix however, pointed out that Albert has over twenty years of experience, which is on par and even more that those chosen in her place.
Could it be a case of discrimination? Felix doesn’t think so but has his own theories.
“Her sister is one of those persons now who is appointed as a fire investigator. So it may not be specifically because she’s a female. I think it is because of the fact that at the St Lucia Fire Service if you are one of those persons who stands up against the nepotism and favouritism and so on then you are immediately sidelined.”
At one point Albert was reportedly selected to act in the fire investigator position, complete with a ministry-approved allowance for use of her private vehicle to conduct investigations. That information was never disseminated to Albert. The latest grievance involves her sister, Tonia who is headed out on vacation. Eve was recommended to hold down the fort but was once again turned down for a colleague of lesser qualification.
“A lot of persons don’t understand what we have endured in the fire service over the years. We have tried our best to go through the processes hence the reason why we were able to get a commission of enquiry. Now that the report is out we have written to the public service commission seeking disciplinary action against senior officers. We’ve gotten a response from them saying that they are reviewing the report and that they would get back to us after they have made a proper decision on it. But what the association is basically asking for is generally purging of the management of the St Lucia Fire Service because everybody seems to be covering up for each other. The members themselves are calling for industrial action. They’re really frustrated in terms of all of the years and nothing is being done and the authorities are dragging their feet and so on. Morale is definitely at it’s lowest. The Chief Fire Officer who was found culpable in the commission of enquiry was recently sent out by the authorities to be part of government funded training. So it’s all of that. He seems to be in their good books. Not just him it’s his team of managers as well because as the commissioner was saying it’s seems to be a thing where senior officers are covering up for each other and if it is that one person is found culpable it means that everybody is because they know exactly what is going on.”
Will Eve Albert ever get her due? Felix is on a mission to right this wrong.
“I really hope she does. As president of the association, it is my responsibility to ensure that she gets the best. I will do my utmost to ensure that the right thing is done. We’re not giving up on this at all. I am really sympathetic to what she has gone through and hoping that the authorities see it.”