Labour Minister Taken To Task.
THE National Workers Union (NWU) and the Civil Service Association (CSA) have joined forces to work on issues affecting their members.
Now the NWU is speaking out on the issues of occupational safety and health that forced Treasury workers affiliated to the CSA to stay away from their work stations last week.
The NWU called those occupational and health issues an “abomination” and blames Labour Minister, Dr. Robert Lewis for what it describes as the downward plunge of the Labour Department.
“Sir, it is indeed sad that under your watch as Minister for Labour, the Department of Labour continues to plunge downwards at such an alarming rate without any rescue in sight. The workers of this country surely deserve more,” the NWU’s President General, Tyrone Maynard said in a letter to the Minister this week.
He said that the NWU had been monitoring the issues at the Treasury and what transpired there was a bad example of government as the custodian for industrial relations in the country.
“Hon. Minister, what is also astounding is that government employs an Occupational safety and Health Consultant within a unit in the Department of Labour. The officer carried out an investigation at the Treasury and presented a report to the authorities. I have been reliably informed that this exercise was undertaken and completed months ago, submitted to the authorities and as workers expressed their disgust no remedial action was taken,” Maynard said to Minister Lewis.
According to Maynard the workers were within their full right to participate in a wait and observe action that would have strengthened their case for immediate attention.
He said that Saint Lucia continues to ignore the saying “where there is smoke there could be fire” and that instead of being proactive, refuses to get rid of the 1950s fire-fighting industrial relations strategy, while continuing to place blame on workers for this current state of these relations.
“This position cannot be supported by the NWU. We all make references to the kinds of sweeping changes that are taking place currently worldwide. Let me point out that it is against this unfolding trend that we believe that we all have an opportunity to establish confidence and consistency in our process of industrial relations. Should we selfishly look after ourselves and forget to assist workers to move up the ladder, Saint Lucia could easily become too hot for us to handle,” Maynard wrote.
Treasury workers stayed away from their work stations for three straight days last week complaining of respiratory problems.
The unhealthy conditions at the Treasury are similar to some found at Customs and Excise, the Ministry of Social Transformation, the Sir Arthur Lewis College Library, the Social Development Fund and at the VAT Office, according to the Cletus Cyril, President of the Civil Service Association, bargaining agents for Treasury workers.
Cyril said that the CSA and the NWU had formed a strategic alliance to fight issues of a similar nature at locations where both have members.
One such location is the National Mental Wellness Centre. The executive director there is in possession of a letter from the NWU to either put its house in order resolving the deteriorating working conditions there or face a certain course of action.
“We have similar concerns with the NWU at the National Mental Wellness Centre,” Wilfred Pierre, the CSA’s General Secretary said.