CASTRIES, St. Lucia, July 22, CMC – St Lucia may be under limited protection by firefighters on Monday as the ranks of the country’s fire service hold an emergency meeting to decide on their next course of action, in what they describe as their “tireless effort” to get the authorities to address their many grievances.
“We are going to meet in an emergency session with our members so that they could direct us as to what course of action they are ready to take to safeguard our welfare and the efficiency of the Fire Service,” Shane Felix, President of the Fire Service Association said in a prepared statement.
Most of their grievances appear to stem from their difficulties with the way Chief Fire Officer Leslie Fontanelle runs the fire service, particularly his stance on training, promotions and assignment of fire officers.
He said the problems have been around for a number of years and members of the association cannot take them anymore.
“Something must be done and done speedily to keep the department efficient.”
He said that over the past year, the association had taken their concerns to the Public Service Ministry, the Public Service Commission and the minister responsible for the fire service, but that to date there has been a lot of talk and very little action.
“Since 2008 the association has been attempting to affirm the rights of its members. These attempts owing to the resistance of the Chief Fire Officer have now manifested in constant running battles between the Chief and members of the association,” Felix added.
He noted that despite several meetings held at all levels including that of the minister, and direct instructions by his superiors to address those issues, there was no action by the fire chief.
“He continues to ignore important pieces of legislation and public service policies as they relate to equal opportunity, fairness and reasonableness on matters such as training, promotions and re-assignments.
“The situation is exasperating and continues to cause consternation amongst members. Morale is low and the consensus among members seems to be that of the Chief Fire Officer is being allowed to contravene the rules and regulations which protect the welfare and the rights of members of the Fire Service Association with impunity,” the association spokesman said.
In an earlier statement, Chief Fire Officer Fontenelle refuted the charges made by the association and accused some of its leaders of conspiring to remove him from office.