General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), Thomas Letang has stated that the union is willing to meet with the government to discuss various issues, particularly salary negotiations, but it must be done under certain conditions.
Speaking at a press conference at the DPSU Building on Tuesday, he said such a meeting must be a place where freedom of speech is allowed and is only between the relevant members of government and the DPSU.
Last week Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, announced that the government is willing to meet with various unions and other members of civil society to discuss salary negotiations and other matters.
But Letang said the DPSU is not interested in meeting in that proposed format.
He said that there are a number of issues besides salary negotiations that the DPSU wants addressed, but when in conversation with the government, where other persons are present, the union is limited to the topics that it can bring to the table.
“So we want a forum where we can talk about the issues affecting the people who we represent, all our members, not only public officers, but Public Works employees, Solid Waste Management employees. So that is one of the reasons why we are saying yes we will meet but we want you to have a meeting with us,” he stated.
Letang explained that in forums organized by the government, based on who is present, only certain issues can be addressed, however a forum where the DPSU can touch on all issues is preferred.
“We are not going to be having a meeting with the Prime Minister where we will not use the opportunity to talk about the injustice that has been shown out to the Public Works employees who has been laid off for almost two years and have not been paid their redundancies,” he remarked. “But you know if we bring that at a meeting where the church is present, where all the other stakeholders are present, we will be told that this is not the forum for that.”
Letang believes that the DPSU has been disrespected because no mention has been made by the government of a request, by the union, for a meeting between the two parties.
“We have received a letter dated March 28th from the CPO (Chief Personnel Officer) and she is telling us that a meeting is scheduled for April 13th 2017 at 10:00 am and that meeting will be held at the Ministry of Finance. Nowhere in her letter does she make any mention of our letter. This is something else,” he said
He added that it cannot be one party making the determination when and where the parties must meet to negotiate or discuss, saying this is unacceptable.
He said that the whole “personal dialogue” is something that has to be looked at.
“We cannot accept the approach that if there is a conference or a meeting as they are proposing that we have to sit with other people so as to tell us why a salary increase cannot be paid,” Letang said.
Letang made it clear that with regards to the proposal for a salary increase, the government has not made an offer but instead has told them that they simply “cannot pay a salary increase.”
“So when they tell us zero, zero, zero, that is not an offer,” he remarked, referring to the government’s offer of a wage freeze for the 2015-2018 triennium. “There are a lot of other things that we have proposed that they have not made mention of. We do not want to go to any meetings where will have any surprises. What we will do in the meantime is that we will continue to engage our membership on what is happening. We have been going around and meeting our members and explaining to them what is happening, the position, and giving reasons why the executive has taken certain positions.”
He said Solidarity Rally is planned by the DPSU on April 27th 2017.