The National Workers Union (NWU) has called on the Ministry of Finance to assign to the Finance Unit of the Castries Constituencies Council (CCC) someone from its ministry, to ensure that subventions from the ministry to the CCC are prudently accounted.
The call by the NWU was made today, May 5, 2020 to Local Government Minister Lenard Montoute via letter, and comes in the wake of the Minister and his Ministry blocking plans by the CCC to lay off workers days last week and this week.
Castries Mayor Peterson Francis is not pleased with the shelving of plans to lay off workers warning that the CCC does not have the money to pay workers now that local government has stepped in and stop the lay off plans the CCC had.
The CCC, under the chairmanship of Francis has undergone a rebirth boasting, among many positives, an active city constabulary keenly involved in ensuring crime in the city is kept to a minimum or at a zero level.
However, Francis’ style of leadership, while supported by some had its detractors, to the point where Local Government initiated an investigation into the CCC, an investigation NWU General Secretary Johann Harewood referred to in his letter to Minister Montoute.
Harewood, after placing on record his appreciation of Minister Montoute and his Ministry in halting the CCC layoffs wrote this:
“Permit me nonetheless to reiterate the position conveyed by … We are not opposed to the Government of Saint Lucia providing a subvention to the CCC or any statutory body for that matter. However, the Government of Saint Lucia must ensure that going forward, a suitable representative from the Ministry of Finance is assigned to the Financed Unit of the CCC to ensure that subventions are managed and accounted for prudently in the interest of good governance, this we believe should start immediately.
“Minister, we cannot ignore the fact that most recently the CCC was the subject of an investigation during which all sorts of allegations were leveled at the CCC. At this stage all must be done to ensure that such a reputable organization of Government is not brought down in disrepute,” wrote the NWU General Secretary.
The CCC’s executive was expected to meet yesterday to discuss the new change of plans regarding the layoffs and to find out where it could get the money to pay workers now that they are no longer laid off. Efforts to find out what new path has been outlined were futile, however Francis, told reporters Sunday that the layoffs were expected to take effect Thursday of this week. He did make mention that some layoffs had to take place last week as well.
He said that presently, the CCC has no money to pay workers and has been operating simply to pay wages.
“We have a wage bill up to about $670,000 a month, which is stifling us. We cannot service current debts far less the arrears we have,” Francis said.
He is not pleased with the NWU regarding the signed agreement the CCC has with the NWU on behalf of CCC employees. He said the agreement in part was a way of reducing the CCC’s wage bill to have workers work 40 hours a week.
“When we were sensitizing the workers as to how this will work the union called a strike. Since then we cannot implement that 40-hour a week,” Francis said, adding that the CCC pays out a lot of money in overtime.
Francis claimed that the layoffs have to happen because the CCC cannot sustain the workforce it has presently.
“COVID or no COVID we have to find a way to reduce that wage bill,” Francis said.
He spoke of the 171 workers in the Sanitation Department who are costing the CCC $167,000 a fortnight in wages, some of whom, Francis said only work an hour a day.