MESSAGE FROM GENERAL SECRETARY – THOMAS LETANG

A resilient public service and a quality public service go hand in hand. Public Officers are responsible for implementing various government policies. They should, consequently, be beneficiaries of the programs they implement. For this to happen, administrators need to do more to address the issue of a quality and resilient public service. While they may have made some improvements to some of the infrastructure they have failed to pay attention to and improve conditions which are not conducive to good health and safety practices. Even in instances where public officers may have been exposed to training, a big question arises. Are they being given the opportunity to put what they have learned into practice? The testimonies of many of them will prove that this has not always been the case.

Quality public services create opportunities for personal development, growth as well as the empowerment of public officers. Such a service provides tangible rewards for good performance which should include promotion and timely appointments.

A public service in the absence of a clear discectomy of roles between policy makers and the administrators of the service is out of sync with the idea of resilience.

In our drive to accomplish and sustain national development, we should aim to have a public service which is devoid of partisan favoritism; one where the criteria for recruitment and appointment is based on competence, qualification, commitment, dedication and discipline. To depart from that approach is a recipe for disaster.

A public service which is governed by archaic laws and regulations cannot adequately contribute towards the objectives of becoming the first climate resilient country in the world. This is indeed a huge task that is only achievable within the environment of a resilient and an A-political public service.

Public Officers, including medical doctors, nurses, fire officers, environmental health officials, administrative personnel and others are generally the first respondents following any disaster. What support is provided to them by the State while their families and loved ones are abandoned as they attend to victims? Are adequate systems established to deal with the accompanying psychological and mental stresses of those officials? Yes, material and financial support might be required. Are they provided?

The fact that a little time was spent talking about climatic issues should not be taken to mean that this is where the matter ends. Talk must be followed by action.

A resilient public service should be one where the state continues to recognize its public officers beyond retirement, and which also ensures that their status is not changed from public officers to paupers. It should be one where the level of remuneration is such that an officer can live relatively comfortably, and they can adequately provide for self and family. It should not be one where one’s hope of living in a decent house for the rest of his earthly life is thwarted by repossession of his house by the bank.

A resilient public service is one which addresses the issue of nurses leaving work and finding themselves by the roadside after midnight trying to hitch a ride to get home. It is one which says, ‘Look, it is not fair that a teacher is in a vacant position for ten years and has not been appointed.”

A resilient public service is one which ensures that entrance into the public service is not through the back door, and that a parallel public service is not established, thereby compromising the roles and functions of Public Service Commissions and other important State entities.

The leadership of the DPSU in raising our voice and taking a unequivocal principled position on matters of national importance has been catalogued. The union leadership has often come under severe hostile and sometimes puerile attacks by many critics, some of them in high political places.

Why should a Union be slandered for being in favour of Electoral Reform? Why should threats be issued against him for demanding better salaries and better working conditions for employees? Why should your union leader and members be attacked over a simple two hours protest action to draw Management to the negotiating table? Why should the President of a Union be victimized just because of his views in support of fairness and justice?

During salary negotiations trade unions are invariably reminded that employees must make sacrifices; meaning that they should make no demands for increases in salaries and wages. Payment of basic allowances is often curtailed; employees are denied basic tools and equipment to perform necessary tasks. Health and safety protections are also compromised. This is the harsh, grim reality public officers are being subjected to.  Irrespective of these exacting threats to our resilience, the DPSU continues to speak forcefully against threats to national development, and advocate in favour of issues that have a positive impact on our members and our country. We do this notwithstanding the chastisement that we suffer.

It has been said that evil reigns supreme when good people and organizations remain silent. We contribute positively to the realization of a resilient public service and safe nation when the Union speaks.  We will continue to advocate for continuous dialogue with all stakeholders, operating on a level platform. We shall continue to speak against poor working attitudes, even if it persists among a minority of public officers and other employees. Critically, we shall continue our campaign that all employees place country before party. We shall continue to speak against wastage and the abuse of state resources. We shall continue our campaign for a free and just society because we believe that resilience can only truly thrive where the people are free. Our call goes out to the policy makers to create the enabling environment that will make it happen.

A public service with all the tenets and systems of resilience which have been alluded to can only result in positive national development in which all citizens will benefit. This will certainly ensure the improvement of our health services, our education, our economy, our agriculture, trade and commerce, our infrastructure and other protocols, including mitigation against disaster. The Dominica Public Service Union, the leading trade union in Dominica pledges to join other positive, progressive forces to strive to ensure that Dominica becomes a truly resilient sovereign democracy.

THOMAS LETANG

GENERAL SECRETARY

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