News, Politics

STANDOFF – GNT, CSA At Loggerheads

Hinkson & Isaac
Hinkson & Isaac

THE feuding between the government and the Civil Service Association (CSA) appears to be intensifying following the butting of heads this week by the government negotiating team (GNT) and the association’s President, Mary Isaac.

The dispute between the two sides, which first appeared in April of this year when Isaac and the other leaders of public sector trade unions unanimously agreed not to rubber stamp any proposal presented to them by the government, remained simmering for eight months.

At first it seemed that the core of the disagreement between the government and the CSA was over the government’s insistence of an adjustment (pay-cut) to the wages and salaries of public workers which it said was necessary to restore the economy on a sustainable path.

Months later and meeting after meeting between the government and trade unions, several of which were boycotted by the CSA, other issues entered the picture one of which was the CSA’s request to meet with the GNT rather than a government sub-committee to discuss the adjustment to wages and salaries and the 2013/2016 Collective Agreement.

The request was granted but the two sides continued to butt heads, despite a statement by the government that the reactivation of the GNT was on condition that the negotiations be completed within two weeks after commencement. That was six months ago.

Last month, trade unions except the CSA, completed negotiations on a three year collective agreement (2013/2016) with the government and presented proposals to government on what can be done to deal with the country’s fiscal deficit without cutting by five percent the salaries and wages of government employees.

This week the situation between the GNT and the CSA worsened with the chairman of the GNT taking to the airwaves to voice his disappointment with the CSA. Isaac, undaunted fired back.

Chairman, Chester Hinkson, in an unprecedented move told media personnel that the GNT was appalled by statements made by Isaac in an article dated November 24, 2014 on the St. Lucia News Online website regarding the minutes of meetings and the negotiations of fringe benefits and salaries.

According to Hinkson at a meeting of October 9, 2014 the CSA requested that fringe benefits (allowances) be negotiated together with wages and salaries. However, although it was not the practice to negotiate allowances with salaries, the GNT accommodated the CSA by acceding to its request. He said that at that meeting the GNT had indicated the severe financial constraints of the government and the difficulty in negotiating positions which resulted in higher financial outlays, and that both parties agreed that the CSA would go back to its members to inform them of the seriousness of the country’s financial situation.

“With respect to the failure of the GNT to issue minutes of the meetings of October 9 and 22, 2014 please note that both parties agreed that the meeting of the 22nd would be a continuation of the meeting of the 9th and that minutes would be provided at the subsequent meeting. The GNT confirms that minutes were indeed issued at the meeting of November 24, 2014. Therefore, there are no minutes outstanding to the CSA,” Hinkson said.

He encouraged the CSA to come to the bargaining table to conclude negotiations in the interest of the country, noting that a meeting between the GNT and the CSA which was scheduled for last Monday was cancelled by the CSA, something Isaac denied claiming that she was not the CSA and that the CSA had a negotiating team some of whom were at the meeting that Hinkson said was cancelled by the CSA.

Isaac said that no one contacted her regarding the scheduled meeting of last Monday. She said that someone from the GNT called her last week in respect of last Monday’s meetin. However this was not the way informing her about a meeting should be done.

Calling her, she said is not the norm.

“We have a system in place where you email the CSA about a meeting then you follow up with a phone call to the general secretary of the CSA,” Isaac said.

Hinkson said that it was the President of the CSA, in a telephone conversation, who cancelled the meeting indicating that the CSA was in no hurry to conclude the negotiations and that the CSA would not be meeting with the GNT until 2015.Further, that two of the seven members of the CSA’s executive would be undergoing medical treatment during the Christmas holidays.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony called the recent disengagement between the GNT and the CSA as ‘alarming’. He also called the delay to conclude negotiations with the CSA as ‘very costly’.

“I urge members of the CSA to examine this situation and determine whether that situation is in their interest or in the interest of the country as a whole,” the Prime Minister said.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

2 Comments

  1. This article reveals our deep NATIONAL ignorance and immaturity as this relates to the critical issue of arriving at a consensus in the process of all negotiations. For those of us who are unaware, in private sector-labour negotiations, these are known DRAG ON for years, without a contract or a collective bargaining agreement being signed!

    Here is absolute tosh, if you can recognise it. The imposition of a two-week timeframe by the PM for a conclusion EXPOSES either his own peculiar deep ignorance of the negotiating process, OR is his own peculiar notion of psychological pressure, even though expected, on the parties to those talks, OR a further display of arrogance that he is Saint Lucia’s Fidel Castro.

    Lest we forget, the civil servants or most of them are the ones generating the income figures for the government. They know what any government of the day can, or cannot pay. They do NOT absolutely need to have an “open book” position with respect to the GNT. Besides, no outsider from the private sector knows better than these people the ACTUAL state of government finances, expenditure and wastage! After all, they are the ones that governments depend on to generate and to aggregate those figures!

    That is why IMF visiting teams “SIEZE” the related files.

    Moreover, most of those in the public service ARE COLLECTIVELY MORE EDUCATED AND MORE ASTUTE THAN THE CONVOYS OF MISFITS, UNDEREDUCATED, UNEDUCATED and MISEDUCATED set of frothing blunderers routinely SENT TO GOVERN IN THE PARLIAMENT.

    One PhD with a historically-proven skewed perspective in law CANNOT COMPENSATE for the balanced and nuanced positions REQUIRED for the decision-making, when dealing COMPLEX ISSUES THAT DO NOT CLEARLY MANIFEST THEMESELVES strictly IN BLACK AND WHITE.

    We as a nation, the voting public and the RELAYS OF UNSOPHISTICATES we are bribed with chicken legs and $100 bills to vote for, will continue to deepen our misery with our stubborn non-acceptance of the realities of the complexities that we must honestly address in selecting political representatives and those who aspire to become our leaders.

    Until then, we can expect to be assailed with the absolute bollocks that this article represents from the many blokes writing and talking in our local media.

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