By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- In what have been a lengthy and protracted negotiations between the government and the public service unions over wages, the Lucian People's Movement (LPM) says that the time has come to explain the matter in its proper context to the people of Saint Lucia, since they are the ones who will be most affected by whatever outcome is reached.
According to the LPM, "Some of the factors that have helped to shape the current perception of the public service, and what drives their belief that the government is able to meet their demands for wage increases, stem from the unprincipled practice and the reckless behaviour of the very same politicians who are today in government."
On leaving office in 2006, and having served as the island’s former minister of finance, Dr Kenny Anthony is said to have been fully aware of the island’s troubling mounting deficit and the devastating impact that mindless borrowing would have on the island’s economy amidst the growing warnings of the approaching global economic meltdown.
“Yet, Dr Anthony, steeped in the irresponsible and outmoded belief that opposition leaders must always seek to exploit the vulnerability and political weaknesses of the administration that replaced them, opted instead to play politics with the long-term interests of the nation. He openly sided with the public service in their demand that a frightened Prime Minister Stephenson King increase wages by 14.5 percent in order to quell the potential for any industrial action and civil unrest throughout the country,” the LPM said.
To this end, the LPM maintains that, while it understands the plight of the public service for an increase in wages during one of the most economically depressed periods in the history of Saint Lucia and the world, the nation's attention should be focused instead on stamping out the politically mischievous behaviour of leaders who, when in opposition, lulled citizens into believing that the government has deeper pockets than it does.
“Hypocritically, they deny this when their backs are against the wall in government,” the LPM said.
According to the LPM, this type of behaviour is driven by political expedience, and it has the potential to not only keep Saint Lucia in a state of perpetual poverty but also to make it very difficult for the nation to arrive at a national consensus as to what the country can and cannot afford.
“The LPM's principled position on the way forward for our nation will never be dictated by a need for votes or an uncontrollable desire to remain at the helm of our island's government (as is so obvious with the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party and the parliamentary opposition United Workers Party). Therefore, given the global situation where workers have to accept lower wages to keep their jobs, the LPM believes that the time for an increase in salaries is not now,” the party said.
However, the LPM insisted that it remains very distrustful of the motives and policies of Anthony, and believes that any effort geared towards reconciling with the unions must begin with government providing convincing evidence of the dire financial situation of our country.
In addition, the LPM called on Anthony to demonstrate to all Saint Lucians that he is willing to lead by example by doing the following:
a) Not insisting (as recently during a televised national address) that the people of Saint Lucia come together for the good of the country, when he really means for the good of the Saint Lucia Labour Party.
b) Establishing a truly bi-partisan National Economic Council with the ability to advise and make recommendations to the government for job creation.
c) Not politicizing the governance of the country by ending all political appointments and programs across the board (which Anthony knows is beyond the ability of the government to sustain).
d) Insisting on value returns by Saint Lucia's Ambassador to the United Nations and other foreign diplomatic staff and facilities paid for by the people of Saint Lucia.
e) Adopting, with immediate effect, the cost-cutting measures that the LPM proposed for downsizing and restructuring embassies and consulates.
f) Limiting the number of persons that the prime minister and other government ministers can take on foreign travels, and limiting their accommodations at hotels to a standard room.
g) Granting Alva Baptiste a greater voice in carrying out Saint Lucia's foreign policy instead of allowing him to languish in the shadows of highly paid Vaughn Lewis.
h) Make the misuse of electricity, water and phone calls at all government agencies and the unauthorized use of government vehicles, an offence punishable by termination of service.