Workers at the Public Works Corporation (PWC) and the union that represents them, the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), have defied a deadline given by Public Work Minister, Ian Pinard, that protest action at the institution should end on Monday (today).
A tough-talking General Secretary of the DPSU, Thomas Letang, told workers on Monday morning that the protest will continue and could even be escalated.
“If the minister feels that he is king and we are subjects, we want to tell him that he is making a mistake,” he said. “That minister is too small to force anyone to go back to work … tell him to come again. We are ready, we are prepared and the only thing we can do is to escalate that protest action.”
Staff of the PWC have been protesting for weeks now over a number of issues affecting them, among them late salaries, the non-payment of Social Security contributions and benefits and the hazardous conditions that they are forced to work in daily.
The workers are also peeved that a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), which was to be signed between the workers and management to give a time frame for dealing with some of the issues, is still unsigned.
Last week Pinard described the protest as ‘illegal’ and said the workers should return to work on Monday.
He also said the MOU is unecessary since it gave a time frame for addressing salary and Social Security payments; matters, which he said, have been taken care of by the government.
But Letang keeps insisting the MOU must be signed.
“No matter how much threats that we get, we are not going to end that protest action until the MOU is signed,” he told the workers. “The issue is not just the non payment of salaries … there are a number of other factors and very important to us is the question of Social Security. We have said repeatedly that we do not expect the PWC to get up and to clear all the debts to Social Security on your behalf but definitly we need information as to what arrangements are being put in place to honor that debt of $700,000.”
He continued, “It is not right, it is not fair that people fall sick and they cannot go to Social Security and have their claims honored. It cannot be fair that if people retire tomorrow, their pension will not be what it has to be…”
Letang’s statement was greeted by a round of applause from the protesting PWC workers.