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HEALTH DRIVERS STRIKE?

CSA Says Overtime Payment Outstanding for 3 years.

DRIVERS attached to the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Gender Relations are likely to go on strike as of today if a settlement is not reached on overtime payments owed to them over a three year period.

The drivers, represented by the Civil Service Association, were still hoping for a breakthrough prior to press time yesterday despite given warning of their action to the Ministry last Friday.

Should the Ministry fail to appease drivers then strike action would certainly take place, said Wilfred Pierre, CSA’s acting President.

“We are still waiting on the Ministry to tell us something. All they need to do is tell us something such as whether they have put systems in place to effect the payments. So far we have heard nothing. As it now stands we are still going on strike,” Pierre said late yesterday afternoon.

The warning of strike action was contained in a letter addressed to Philip Dalsou, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Public Service.

The CSA executive received its mandate from the drivers whom they met on Friday to discuss the overtime payments and their frustrations over the inordinate amount of time the Ministry was taking to pay them.

These drivers operate ambulances and pick up and drop home nurses and doctors at all times and deliver specimen to and from the various hospitals, among other things, according to Pierre.

Pierre said that the CSA had tried all what it could over the past three years to get the matter resolved but was unsuccessful.

“This is a reflection of how some persons in authority view and treat workers who are at the lower level in the public service,” Pierre wrote in his letter to Dalsou, adding that the concerns of workers at the lower levels in government are not given prompt consideration.

He then warned Dalsou of today’s industrial action in the same letter.

“The CSA would like to inform you that as a result of the non-payment of overtime dating back two to three years and the fact that we have exhausted all methods of bringing a peaceful resolution to this matter, we have taken a decision that if this matter is not resolved satisfactory (overtime being paid) by Monday 27 July, we will be pulling out drivers of the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, 28 July. Please be guided accordingly,” Pierre noted.

This issue is one of two the CSA’s current executive is presently struggling with. The other is the ongoing brawl with a faction of the union calling itself Save Our Union (CSA) Team.

The row between the two sides has resulted in disruptions at meetings held by the executive, threats of legal action one against the other, calls for the resignation of the entire executive and now a letter from the breakaway faction to a local bank to disassociate itself from the CSA citing unconstitutional and irresponsible behaviour on the part of the CSA’s executive.

That letter awakened the acrimony between the two sides with Pierre stating that it was an attempt to have the bank to dishonour CSA cheques and stop CSA members from receiving much needed financial assistance.

But the Bank of Saint Lucia disregarded the letter from Save Our Union (CSA) Team quoting sections 326 and 350 of the Labour Act to justify its position.

In its reply to the Save Our Union (CSA) Team, the bank noted that not only was it unable to act upon the letter it received but “in the circumstances, we have no choice but to continue to do business with the persons presently recognized by the Registrar of Trade Unions.”

The bank when further to note that, “If the position changes with the Registrar we will then act accordingly.”

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...

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