NWU Calls For Removal of Director Mathurin
THE industrial action by employees of the National Insurance Scheme (NIC) that started over a delay in the provision of uniforms has escalated into a firestorm of protestations that could result in the possible removal of one of its directors.
Matthew Mathurin is under pressure from employees and their bargaining agent, the National Workers Union (NWU), to change his attitude in the ongoing negotiations for the triennium which ended last December.
Efforts to contact Mathurin were unsuccessful, however the NWU is insisting on a guarantee from him in respect of a change in his behaviour so that the long standing dispute could be resolved.
“…the other thing we want is a guarantee from Mr.Mathurin that he is going to change his attitude; that he is going to deal with people differently. If we cannot get that guarantee we will call for his removal,” President General of the NWU, Tyrone Maynard told striking employees Thursday on the steps of the NIC building on the Castries Waterfront.
However he urged employees that each one of them must be on board to support the move to remove Mathurin should it become necessary to do so.
“If we’re going to go in that direction it means that everybody must be on board. If you cannot work with people, people cannot work with you,” he said, adding that it’s no big deal to call for Mathurin’s removal “if he cannot change his ways and cannot give us a guarantee that he is prepared to look at things differently and develop a more humane attitude towards everybody.”
The NIC and NWU have met 15 times, thrice with the Labour Department, in their efforts to arrive at a settlement for the 2012-2014 period. The two parties last met on January 28 of this year. Employees, since that time, have staged industrial action 10 times, three times last month.
At their last meeting the NIC’s recently implemented reclassification exercise was reviewed so too was the proposed 10 percent wage increase.
According to the NIC much progress had been made by both sides on the 23 items put forward by the NWU for negotiation which started on October 23, 2013.
Outside of wages, items on which no agreement has been reached include an increase in car allowance from $750 to $1000 and 100 percent increase in mileage allowance ($1.50 – $3.00).
Employees, 12 days ago, resorted to industrial action saying that the NIC had not “lived up to the uniform provision in the Industrial agreement”. The NIC had requested an extension from providing five sets of uniforms every 12 months to every 18 months with management stating that the turnaround time between measurement and distribution usually left only six months before new uniforms were due.
Moreover, according to the NIC, it had for some years now, been purchasing uniforms for staff outside of Saint Lucia, initially from Miami, since then regionally. However, as of July of last year it took the decision to procure uniforms locally so as to support local employment, a move that will result in savings to the NIC of $34,000. The NIC states that to date all materials have been purchased, all staff members have had their measurements taken and it is now awaiting delivery from their local suppliers.
This latest strike action, which started on February 24 and is now in its ninth working day, is impacting on members of the public filing sick leave claims and other claims but not pensioners, according to NIC’s communications officer, Kurt Reynolds yesterday.
“Pensioners will not be affected. Persons filing sick leave claims will experience delays but not significantly,” he said.
Reynolds added that male employees of the NIC will be getting their new uniforms next Friday while the females will be getting theirs at the end of May.
“As a result of this we were offering compensation to employees with the female employees being earmarked for a higher amount than the male employees,” he said.
All that changed Wednesday when the NWU successfully negotiated for everyone to get the same amount of dollar compensation, which amounted to $400 each.
The NIC since then expected workers to resume work, but much to its dismay this did not happen. The corporation said that it did not know the reason why employees were still on strike.
Solace Myers, NWU Deputy President General, Thursday stated that during negotiations the union realized that there were some deep seated issues at the NIC that needed to be fixed right away if the NIC had any hopes of moving forward as an organization.
“There were other issues that needed to be addressed and resolved in terms of the corporation’s, working environment; the staff had been complaining for a number of years in terms of how they are treated,” she said, adding that the union was not at liberty to release every single grievance at this time.
Both Maynard and Myers promised to take the NIC matter to Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, first writing him to be at a general meeting with staff to hear their grievances so that the negotiations could be resolved once and for all.
“We are going to appeal to the Prime Minister and ask for a meeting with him to discuss all those issues coming out of the NIC,” Myers said.
Should the Prime Minister be unable to attend, Maynard and Myers are hoping that either deputy Prime Minister Philip J Pierre or Commerce Minister Emma Hippolyte would attend in his stead. They say that they are pushing for the birth of a new day within the NIC.
“We want to know that when we decide to move in there (NIC), it must be a new day, it must be a new Mr.Mathurin, it must be a new condition, it must be a new environment. If we cannot establish that, they may forget it,” Maynard said.
“So as long as we can get those conditions resolved then we are going to walk in like one team…” Maynard added.