It has been reported that a total of forty probationary fire-fighters have not received salaries for the month of May 2019. A meeting to discuss this matter was held on Monday June 17th at the Dennery Fire Station. Present at the meeting were the forty affected fire-fighters, the Chief Fire Officer, Joseph Joseph, and Alyn Roserie, Officer in Charge of the Dennery Fire Station. Via conversation with Roserie, it was understood that fire-fighters were recruited for a two year probationary period, which was disjoined by four six-month contractual periods. He claimed that the interval between the renewals of contracts sometimes exceeded a month for which fire-fighters did not get paid, notwithstanding the fact that fire-fighters continued to carry out their duties.
Roserie claimed that fire-fighters who were expecting permanent employment after their probation were discouraged when the Ministry of the Public Service introduced a new policy which disrupted the continuity of the two year probation period by splitting it into smaller contracts. Roserie remarked, “We have witnessed over the years these individuals did not get paid when their contract ended even though they would be on the job, by virtue of the fact that the other contract would not have started.” As a result of this circumstance, Roserie stated that fire-fighters are clamouring over the fact that they have become too hard-pressed to sustain themselves and come to work.
Roserie stated that all relevant documentation for contract renewals are submitted on time by the Fire Service, but is impeded by the process which precedes the re-appointment of fire-fighters. He said that the documents are sent from the Fire Service to the Ministry of Home affairs who then submit them to the Ministry of the Public Service, who in turn delivers them to the Public Service Commission, who is responsible for appointing fire-fighters. Roserie said that the fire-fighters do not get paid during this long drawn out process and that it puts tremendous financial strain on them.
When he was asked whether the work of the fire service had been affected by the issue, Roserie replied, “If an individual is financially depressed, you cannot expect that morals will be high and productivity will increase. We have experienced some of them coming to work and saying that they don’t have money to pay for bus and food etc. If they are not there then the stations cannot be adequately manned. Fire-fighting numbers matter. If there is one fire unit, then it is necessary to have four persons to man that unit. In Dennery we have one fire unit, one ambulance… you need four on fire unit, two on ambulance, and one to work controls; seven in all. If you do not have those numbers, you cannot adequately respond to any emergency. With forty persons in financial distress, you can well understand what that means for all the fire service.”
Discussions on the issue were reported to have taken place between fire officials and the Minister of Labour, Stephenson King. It was suggested that fire-fighters be put on a straight two-year contract as opposed to four six-month contracts. The point of this suggestion was to eradicate the breaking period in which fire-fighters did not get paid. In an effort to alleviate the situation, Roserie proposed, “I think the solution moving forward is first of all to process their salaries so they can feel some kind of relief by getting their payments.” In conclusion he went on to express, “They have gone through the probation exam and were successful, so as soon as the process of making them permanent staff can happen, that would be the best thing for the process.”