Government agrees to demands of protesting prison staff

A mere three hours of protest action by employees of the Dominica State Prison have borne positive results as the government has agreed to all the demands of the prison officers.

On the morning of September 28, 2021, prison officers gathered on the compound of Dominica’s lone penal institution neglecting some of their duties in a form of protest, a decision they say, was forced upon them due to the government’s  failure to address their most dire concerns.

General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU),Thomas Letang, told Dominica News Online (DNO)  that attempts made to reach the government to avert the need for any protest action proved futile as decade-old and present concerns of the prison staff were ignored.

Letang referenced two letters sent on September 14, 2020 and February 5, 2021, both of which highlighted the level of disappointment and anger that existed among staff at the prison, “over lack of interest being shown at the highest level with regard to their concerns.”

The DPSU General Secretary said he emphasized the need for a proposed joint meeting and pointed out that to further delay the convening of that meeting would be “irresponsible.”

Among concerns of the prison employees were the nonappointment of acting and temporary staff, the stoppage of certain medical benefits to prison officers, issues with requisition of food supplies, the lack of suitable quarters for both male and female staff which, at present, are not separated, and lack of adequate staffing.

As it relates to Covid-19, to date, 91 of 210 inmates are positive, however, according to the union, these  COVID-positive prisoners are kept among the other inmates and prison staff with no medical care.

“My letters were sent to the Permanent Secretary (PS) and the Minister for National Security and Home Affairs, to the Honorable Minister for Public Service, Secretary to the Cabinet, the Chief Personnel Officer and the Superintendent of Prison, as well as prison officers but the issues were not resolved and we never got a response,” Letang contended.

He said the prison staff informed the Minister and Permanent Secretary of protest action which they were planning and claims that in an attempt to “intimidate them” the authorities met with the employees without their union but, according to the union chief, the employees were not satisfied following the meeting.

“Since that meeting, more issues have surfaced,” he stated. “The prison is understaffed; they have an approved complement of staff of 72 and right now it is 58 and that includes auxiliary staff who by the way, carry out all the duties of prison officers and have been in that non established position for as long as 10 years. This has a lot of implications for them in terms of their gratuity, their  vacation leave, their pay and everything.”

The DPSU head further lamented that while prison employees are interacting with Covid-19 positive inmates, no risk allowance is provided to the officers.

“Right now 15 prison officers have contracted the virus so this situation is very, very bad. There is no separation of those who are positive from those who are negative and the inmates cannot be accommodated at the quarantine facility. So you can see the danger that is involved. The prison officers  have to mingle with them and at the end of the day, the very same prison officers go back to their homes and to their families. So that is dangerous, and something needs to be done,” Letang declared.

He said the nurse at the prison has since fallen ill, so the mates are not receiving any health service.

Letang said on Tuesday, the day of the protest, inmates were fed but no other service was provided by the prison officers.

He vowed that actions would continue until all their issues were addressed. However, a visit by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs during the protest and the holding of an emergency meeting later that same day with the union and prison employees, it now appears that there may not be need for protest action by the prison officers.

Letang told Dominica News Online (DNO) that the meeting was fruitful.

He said over 40 prison employees were present and all their concerns were aired and timelines were given for them to be addressed.

“Where it pertained to appointments, we were given the assurance that all recommendations will be submitted for appointments for the Public Service Commission meeting on the 21st of October. With regard to transportation where only one transport is being used by inmates and employees, we were told that before the end of the week, a quotation will be given for the purchase of a new vehicle,” the DPSU official added.

With regard to the Covid-19 outbreak at the prison, an assurance was given that the Ministry of Health will provide training to staff.

“We have also put a structure in place so that all the things we have agreed to will be implemented. This group will do follow-ups on and ensure that all that was agreed to will be done. For the medical benefits, it was agreed that whatever existed before will be reinstated until a new arrangement can be agreed upon,” Letang stated.

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20 Comments

  1. September 30, 2021

    “As it relates to Covid-19, to date, 91 of 210 inmates are positive, however, according to the union, these COVID-positive prisoners are kept among the other inmates and prison staff with no medical care”.

    I don’t understand the statement above. I thought every inmate in a prison had their own cell. What does mean that they are kept among the other inmates?

  2. Waiting For Airport
    September 30, 2021

    This government is teaching the population that the only way to get anything done is protest. 3 hours of protests proves more effective than years of trying through the ‘appropriate channels’. Same with the bus drivers, Rubis etc.

    I hope when the population learn the lesson all you teaching all you can handle it!

  3. Righteous
    September 30, 2021

    Most of the concerns addressed in the letter to the PS and the Minister pertaining to staffing, benefits, housing for officers, transportation issues etc should have been addressed a long time ago. That is unacceptable and pure negligence by the Govt.

    On the Covid issue, inevitably there was going to be an outbreak of COVID in the prison when you have movements in and out of the facility. I do hope that the Ministry of Health and the Prison System has established protocols for movement of personnel/inmates in and out of the prison. It is idiotic that there is not an isolation COVID unit where COVID+ inmates can be quarantine during their positive period. Of course if they require more intensive care, then they be treated like every other citizen and taken to the proper facility. Does the Ministry of NSHA have a crisis management team in place to address this situation? We must all do better to be better. It starts at the top.
    #AllForEachAndEachForAll
    One Love Dominicans #OLD767

  4. Truth Be Told
    September 30, 2021

    Sadly, a people get the Government that they deserve! Sorry Dominica, your people keep voting for misery like the trees voting for the axe: “The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the Axe for the Axe was clever and convinced the Trees that because his handle was made of wood, he was one of them.” – Turkish Proverb.

  5. Ibo France
    September 30, 2021

    In such a squalid working environment productivity unfortunately suffers. This situation at the prison says to me that Mr. Skerrit is uncaring and has lost all interest as to the happenings throughout the public service.

    This is the truth. Mr. Skerrit lives in such incredible luxury that he has lost touch with the common people of Dominica. It’s very regrettable as these same poor, common people pay for him, his wife and their two children to live this aristocratic lifestyle.

  6. September 29, 2021

    One protest, two protests of less than 50 people every 6 months- what is that? There must be JUST ONE massive, I MEAN MASSIVE protest to have this corrupt and hypocrite set of crooks running. And even Letang who has been a “yes sir” ineffective leader should also pack and run. He is just like the government. He’s been there too long and has not achieved any thing of substance. But again who can or will follow? Most others have been puppets and recipients of the jombie money.

  7. Jonathan Y St Jean
    September 29, 2021

    The parliamentarians took little time to approve $64,000 per month to pay for the bougeouis lifestyle of el-supremo, yet when it comes to the health and other concerns if prison officials, students and staff at the college, the bus drivers, the petroleum products distributors, the students studying overseas , the repairs to the public library and so much more, the Labor cabal is insensitive. Their primary focus is remaining in power by any means necessary. Captain the ship is sinking right under our noses. Thomas Letang is the new sheriff in town and he has the guy who says he runs things in Dominica on the ropes.

  8. L C Matthew
    September 29, 2021

    SOS different day. Thomas letang is a symptom of what is wrong with our society and governance. Men who in a position so long that they become ineffective and inefficient. Lack ideas and become complacent. The position becomes about them. 10 years!!!! This isolated spaced out industrial actions are selfish in nature and does nothing to solve the institutionalized problems.

  9. Ibo France
    September 29, 2021

    The despicable and unthinkable conditions at the State prison clearly show the profound disregard and disdain the Skerrit- DLP despotic regime has for Dominicans.

    These revelations at the only prison in the country are unspeakable. No loving, concerned, competent and people-centered government would allow important institutions as the State prison, hospitals, health centres, the main public library to disintegrate to ruins.

    Dominica is a truly peculiar place. Only in Dominica, an incumbent administration can disparage, oppress and keep the populace in such a sustained, entrenched and abysmal poverty and the inhabitants remain so passive, sitting disinterstedly on their hands while democracy and all its vital organs rot to nothingness.

  10. MAKE IT PLAIN...
    September 29, 2021

    Ibo i am after u. There are older people who are reading this. People without a Law Degree or even a high school diploma. Some gave never heard of Sadistic…..Acquiesce. Yes we are common people don’t own an IPad or IPhone where we have the opportunity to look up these words. You don’t have to prove your intellect with anyon. Please make it where we can understand.

    • Ibo France
      October 1, 2021

      Got it! I can accept constructive criticisms, no problem at all. Many times as I write specific words just automatically come to mind without much effort. Not to break my chain of thoughts I use them.

      I grew up in a nuclear family. Both of my parents were devout Christians. The two virtues they instilled most in me were HONESTY and HUMILITY. I consider myself an excessively modest person. I’m not vainglorious in anyway. I have never talked about myself in an ostentatious manner. In fact, I can be quite self deprecating.

      Thanks for your frankness for I feel your chastisement has come from a good place.

      • MAKE IT PLAIN
        October 1, 2021

        Thanks IBO I know you are very intelligent and have a good heart. You speak truth. Thanks knowing I meant well. God bless you young man.

  11. Get real
    September 29, 2021

    Now a days…people have to protest to get results…remember d bus drivers .then they butter their mouth and up to now their mouth full with butter….they got their stimulus and thats it….this government seems to be getting out of touch…election is not so far….get real….

  12. %
    September 29, 2021

    So why do the people have a government that only acts on pertinent national concerns when the people protest?
    What is the government preoccupied with? Is it just selling passports, lying, cheating and sharing food in the dead of night to supporters ?
    I have long described this government as an embarrassment headed by a liar in chief called liar Skerrit…What a shame!!!

  13. derp
    September 29, 2021

    So the same government that said they are fighting the COVID-19 is directly contributing to it’s spread!

    • Ibo France
      September 29, 2021

      Solid point! This ruling regime is an enigmatic group of miscreants, rogues and hardcore thugs led by an intellectual featherweight who is morally inept.

  14. Dr Clayton Shillingford
    September 29, 2021

    Assuming that what is reported here is factual the absence of appropriate and timely action transmits impression of lack of discipline and sense of urgency in dealing with matters as important and serious as in the complaints

    • Ibo France
      September 29, 2021

      Assuming what!
      If 99% of fishes come on the seashore and tell you that shark in there, there’s no reason for assume or doubt. Stop your petty and pious political correctness.

  15. Ibo France
    September 29, 2021

    The truckers, bus drivers, DSC staffers, the prison officers had to resort to protest actions to get the sadistic and intransigent regime to acquiesce to their needs. Force makes water climb hill.

    The whole of Dominica should be similarly informed and take to the streets en masse to get not only electoral reforms but constitutional changes as well. Also, to force this nakedly corrupt, ruling regime to come clean with the billions of dollars involving the CBI program.

    The common people have to flood the streets in their tens of thousand to send an unequivocal message to the tyrant who now occupies the office of the prime minister. Enough is Enough!

  16. Not A Herd Follower
    September 29, 2021

    The one-man government is just pushing the buttons of Dominicans to see how far the largely docile population will tolerate his actions. He is quick to accede the requests of persons who mount industrial or protest action after their long outstanding complaints have been ignored for years. The man is a con and acts in his own interests, and the masses encourage him with their unbelievable gullibility.

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