General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), Thomas Letang has said public servants will still hold their “salary negotiation solidarity rally” today to discuss salary negotiations, among other issues despite plans by Prime minister Skerrit to hold the first in a series of meetings with public officers today.
He told Dominica News Online (DNO) during an interview on Thursday that in order to save the public service and to bring it back to how it used to be, public officers, supporters and Dominicans, need to come together and do what is required to save the public service.
“The rally is bringing all public sector employees together, because we have a number of issues that are affecting them; issues that have been there for a long time and not being addressed, not being resolved,” he stated. “After trying for so long and using all the options available to us to try solving these issues and not getting there, we just felt that we needed to bring them together, give an update as to what is happening and what are the things that are not happening, and to inform them on our proposed course of action. ”
According to Letang, there is the issue of salary negotiations in the public service where the union submitted to government, their proposals for the new triennium, 2018 to 2021 and that, he said, has been with government since December.
“We have not received an acknowledgment of our submission of our letter,” he stated. “We wrote again in February, expressing that concern and telling government that they were not giving that matter the urgency or the priority that it deserves,” Letang remarked.
He went on to say that he spoke to a senior government official involved in negotiations and explained to her that she needed to acknowledge the receipt of his letter so that he could report to his executive on the situation.
“That was some time ago and nothing has been done,” he pointed out. “So [we] believe the time is right when we should call the members and we decide how we move from there.”
Letang mentioned the Public Works Corporation where he said the Acting General Manager has resolved certain issues, but where the issue of salaries to the employees remains unresolved.
“At Solid Waste, we still have salaries we have to negotiate for on their behalf,” he said. “There is no board in place and therefore, things are at a standstill.”
Letang added, “The same applies to DASPA [Dominica Air and Seaport Authority].”
He revealed that the union met with management of DASPA and has almost concluded negotiations. However, he said there is no board in place to approve what the union is looking at.
The DPSU official also referred to the challenges that are now affecting the nursing services.
“Nurses have been working and the conditions are just bad. They don’t have the basic equipment; the environment is not fit for them to be there performing. We have issues at a number of our government institutions including the Government Printery where people are working in mold infested areas,” Letang complained. “Letters have been written and in a number of instances, letters were not acknowledged and nothing has been done to address those matters.”
Furthermore, he pointed out that a number of public officers have been in the service for many years and are not being appointed.
“The public service is fast becoming Hollywood where people are acting in positions for long period of 5 years and more and are not being appointed…,” Letter lamented.
The meeting is expected to take place at the DPSU building at 4:30pm.
Meantime, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced today that he plans to hold a series of meetings with public officers beginning this afternoon.
“As Prime Minister, I am embarking on a series of discussions with employees of the state…I will be meeting with a wide range of public servants over the next few days starting with the meeting with the junior clerks.”
He said he has invited over 100 junior clerks “to hear from them directly, what are their issues; what they would like to see…”
Skerrit made it clear that he would not want to get himself “entangled with any political machinations.”
“If people have serious issues to discuss, then we can engage ourselves in an atmosphere of mutual respect where these issues can be dealt with,” he suggested.
But Letang believes that the Prime Minister is trying to use another political strategy to divide and rule in the public service, “and to weaken the Dominica Public Service Union and we are not going to fall for that.”
He revealed that some junior clerks are already contacting the union expressing their disappointment.
“They said they are going to the meeting; they will listen but they have made up their minds that no matter what he (Skerrit) says it is not going to influence them,” Letang said.