An Open response to government of St Lucia: Part 1
25th May, 2020
Hon. Allen Chastanet
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs & the Public Service
Office of the Prime Minister Graeham Louisy Building Waterfront
Castries, St. Lucia
The St. Lucia Trade Union Federation (TUF) is perplexed by the unprecedented action of the Government of St. Lucia to engage Public Servants and their representative bodies through public releases. One would have thought that in this period of global crisis, government as an employer would try to build trust with its workers rather than seek to create a divide between the rest of the citizenry and public officers. It would also be particularly important for the Prime Minister and Minister of the Public Service, as a head of the public service, to encourage confidence in the people he leads.
Prime Minister, the Trade Union Federation has no interest in getting into an unnecessary fight with government. The Federation and its affiliates are concerned about protecting the interests of the general membership of the affiliates while making a contribution to national development. In the exercise of this mandate, the Federation, its affiliates, officers and membership of the affiliates will act responsibly and without fear.
While the Federation does not believe in this type of dimension that you have introduced in terms of dialogue between employer, workers and their representatives, we will on this occasion oblige following your lead in this season of ‘new normal’.
Sir, for your elucidation, the following is offered:
Collins dictionary defines an open letter as” a letter that is published in a newspaper or magazine. It is addressed to a particular person but is intended for the general reader, usually in order to protest or give an opinion about something”; the Merriam-Webster defines it as “a published letter of protest or appeal usually addressed to an individual but intended for the general public”, the Free Dictionary’s definition is “A published letter on a subject of general interest, addressed to a person but intended for general readership”, while Cambridge Dictionary says it is “ a letter intended to be read by a lot of people, not just the person it is written to”. It is therefore ironic Sir, that you would indicate that you would like a response from the Federation and its affiliates by Monday 25th May, 2020. Or are we mistaken and that the response should come from the intended recipients (the general public) of you correspondence?
Further, Officers of the Federation and of Public Sector Unions are aware that the intention of an open letter is either to cause distress to the addressees, or cause the public to judge persons the letter is addressed to unfavourably or to create such a focus on the addressees that it will force them to take the writer’s desired actions. Sir, please note that whatever the intention, the Federation is not intimidated and will not be coerced.
More so, Honourable Prime Minister, if we were to imagine that the intentions were pure, was it proper and acting in good faith that you should send an open letter to the Federation on the afternoon of Friday 21st May, 2020 and expressing a desire to have a response by Monday 25th May, 2020?
Also, Mr. Prime Minister, was it necessary to send Public Sector Unions a replica of the letter sent to them by the Department of Finance to which the Unions had responded since 5th May, 2020 after having seven (7) lengthy meetings with government on the matter over a period of five (5) weeks?
Sir, we did not fail to recognize that in your letter suspected to be for public consumption, you indicated that government will weigh its legal options to settle the matter. The Federation will not seek to suggest to government what to do lest we get an order to “STOP IT”. However, we politely indicate that the workers also have options which they are prepared to weigh should the actions of government warrant such considerations.
The Trade Union Federation informs you, Honourable Prime Minister that as Leader of the country and as a Head of the Public Service, that we are committed to working with government. However, we state categorically, that such collaboration will not be to the detriment of our members, their families and the country.
Honourable Prime Minister, the Federation sends its best wishes and promises to let you have Part 2 of our letter to you in the shortest possible time.
Yours respectfully, Julian Monrose
President – St. Lucia Trade Union Federation (TUF)
*Editors Note: Reference: Government of St Lucia – TUF prepares for battle