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PM settles outstanding issues and urges fire officers to return to work

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Contact: Prime Minister's Press Secretary

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony on Tuesday evening (October 10, 2006) met with representatives of the Fire Services Welfare Association (FSWA), in a bid to bring to an end to industrial action by its members.

The Prime Minister, who was acting on behalf of his Cabinet colleagues, advised the representatives of the FSWA that the Government of Saint Lucia had agreed to a recommendation by the Negotiating Team to pay fire officers $450 per month, starting September 1, for the excess hours worked by their members.

It was also agreed that the system of excess working hours will be eliminated, once the Fire Service is brought up to its full strength in the next two years. However, the rate of payment and the number of excess hours will be gradually reduced concomitantly with the increase in the strength of the Fire Service over the two-year period.

The Prime Minister also advised the representatives of the fire officers that he had instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs to seek quotes from the Private Sector to replace the roof of the building housing the Central Fire Station on Jeremie Street in Castries.

He advised, however, that the removal of the roof is a delicate matter, as it must be handled by qualified and experiences personnel.

Further, he said, arrangements will have to be made to relocate Fire Tenders and Fire Officers, as well as Police personnel currently utilising the building.

It was agreed at the meeting with the Prime Minister that the Association will work closely with the Minister and the Fire Chief to put into effect a plan of action to facilitate the replacement of the roof.

The Prime Minister expressed his regret that the Association did not bring their grievances directly to the Minister, or to himself, before taking industrial action.

The Prime Minister also indicated that it will be necessary to review the arrangements for providing fire personnel to the islandís airports, as the country cannot afford the consequences of the disruption of travel by Saint Lucians and visitors to the island.

Prime Minister Anthony urged the association to encourage their members to return to work, even if some doctors had given Fire Officers up to nine or ten days sick leave.

Fire Chief Leslie Fontinelle also this morning issued a call, through the media, for the fire officers who are still out to return to work, as the outstanding matters had been addressed by the Prime Minister and settled with the representatives of the Association during last nightís meeting.

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