UWP calls on SLP to answer to dismissal of workers

The Opposition United Workers Party held a press conference on Tuesday June 5, 2012 in the wake of the recent dismissal of two employees within the Castries City Council (CCC) and the termination of some twenty-six contractors employed by the CCC. The Leader of the Opposition, Stephenson King says the dismissal is uncalled for and is a blatant move by the St Lucia Labour Party as it continues to victimize known supporters of the United Workers Party. According to King, the Opposition and people of St Lucia can no longer endure such “blatant victimization being practiced by the Kenny Anthony Labour Government.” He says the most recent commitments of victimization at the Castries City Council, under the guise of restructuring is nothing else, other than political, intended to discriminate against St Lucians who are perceived to be beneficiaries of jobs created by the United Workers Party. King adds that his party holds a strong view that the current SLP government has double standards in promising jobs to the people of St Lucia and then taking away jobs from persons who are already employed. He believes that this does not create an atmosphere needed for collaboration and bi-partisanship promised by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony. “The United Workers Party considers the present posture and practices of the government unacceptable and not conducive for the level of collaboration being encouraged presently, and consequently withdraws from all initiatives intended to provide bi-partisanship on national, social and economic issues—among them the proposed Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Introduction of VAT,” said King. Meanwhile, former Minister for Housing and Local Government, Richard Frederick says as a minister within the UWP government, he never operated with such a “vindictive” attitude. He questions why the CCC would dismiss two employees and twenty-six contractors by reason of restructuring and then hire new workers to replace them. Frederick says he did not dismiss a single person from the CCC when he was installed as a minister. He boasts that he even renewed contracts of persons he knew were in support of the then Opposition SLP. “I did not touch one employee or contractor even if I knew I may not have been in their political good books,” said Frederick while adding, “When I assumed my portfolios, CCC being one of them, there was an air of expectancy that Mr. VLF would have been dismissed. I found in the gentleman a concern for country. An intention to assist in the drive to make the city look better. I admired his ability whilst paying no mind to his allegiance. “In fact, when a general manager of solid waste was needed, a position that differed with the one he held at CCC by thousands of dollars monthly, I had no hesitation, absolutely none at all, in giving my blessings to his new appointment.” Frederick stated that many of the terminated contractors had acquired loans to commence contractual work for the CCC and now that their contracts are terminated, he questions how these individuals will be able to repay these loans. One particular case that troubles him, Frederick says is that of Mr Thomas Haynes who was unreachable for a comment. The current MP for Castries Central says Mr Haynes was an employee of the CCC who found himself in an unfortunate accident whilst at work, on the premises of the CCC. According to Frederick, Haynes is unable to walk with his ulcerated leg and for the last four years has been unable to leave his home in the CDC, where he resides. Frederick states that Haynes has never received any compensation for his injury and neither did he pursue any legal action. He adds that Haynes pays for a daily visit for treatment from a nurse even while his contract was severed without a hint of consideration for his personal circumstances. Frederick also made mention of a single mother who received a letter of termination after working in the CCC for a few years. Thirty-five-year-old Sharmaine Caesar says she began her employment at the CCC in August of 2010 where she worked as a receptionist for administration and then diarist. On April 17, 2012, Caesar says she along with another employee were both given letters stating that the CCC was restructuring. A very infuriated but emotional Caesar continued to explain to the STAR what had transpired: “I waited a while to see what was going on and so I figured, if I stayed away from the media, it would not look political. The best way to go is to confront the people who are responsible for that sort of activity. I tried to get in touch with the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary to see if it was possible for him to do something about it because there are times when things happen and the head knows nothing about it but she responded by saying that if I got terminated, there was a reason for it so please see my Minister. “I then saw clearly that there was no redress for my situation and clearly it was political,” she said. Rufus Martyr is the other employee who received a letter of dismissal. Martyr says he had recently taken a loan to send his daughter to law school at UWI and now he has no idea how he is going to repay. As the only breadwinner in the house, Martyr says this situation negatively impacted his way of living. “In 2010 I was brought in to understudy Mr Francis who left eventually and I stayed on working in the works department. I was never assessed and my work was never assessed. An evaluation was never done but based on the response of my colleagues in the department they will testify that I was one of the best. “The day I received my letter, in the morning, a well-known calypsonian walked in and said, ‘You Martyr, you! Ahhhh Boy! Frederick right hand man!’ It wasn’t long until I received the letter of dismissal. Clearly, one can see that this was a political move,” he said. While the UWP is calling on the SLP government to cease from its practice of victimization, the party says it is not telling the government who it should employ. In Frederick’s response to a question of what his party wants the government to do about the dismissal, he says they are not pressing the government to re-employ anyone but rather he says, that action is not in synch with the togetherness that seemingly has been professed by Dr Kenny Anthony after having assumed office. He adds that whatever action that will be pursued will be left solely to the employees and contractors. The STAR attempted to reach the Managing Director of the CCC, Arthur Didier for a comment but was told by the receptionist that he was unavailable for comment.

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