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Public servants may not have requested time off for protest

Public servants may not have requested time off for protest
Protesters on the picket against the amendment to the Public Health Act, last week.

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QUESTIONS have been raised whether public servants who were engaged in the protest in Kingstown last week Thursday, August 5 had requested time off to be on the picket line.

And it appears that neither they nor their union had asked for the requisite approval from their heads of department to allow for participation in the protest, a right guaranteed under the Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the agreement between the trade unions and the government.

Deputy Comptroller of Customs (Acting) Rihanna James, who has responsibility for Administration on Tuesday August 10, said the officers had not made a request for time off.

“…The unions were supposed to send correspondence across to the heads of departments, seeking time off for the officers to attend the protest; that was not done,” she said. “The management here was not aware that persons from here would have been in the protest,” she told the SEARCHLIGHT.

James explained that the trade unions are required to write heads of departments seeking time off, “and that was not done … and the persons who were there, we had no idea that they were going to be there.”

Some of the public servants spoke on camera explaining why they were protesting.

“Most of the persons (Customs officers) who were there were from one particular unit, and did not seek permission from the head of department,” James stressed.

Nicole John of the Public Service Commission said on checking the Public Service Orders, “ it does not speak to individuals and protest and all of that, and the reference it draws to is if one is part of the union.”

She was not sure if the trade unions had called or written to heads of department seeking permission for members to be part of the protest.

“In a case of what happened, the union would have made a call to their members. We do not know if they went down there based on their [being] members of the union or not. But according to the PSO, it does not speak specifically to whether individuals can take it upon themselves to be part of a protest. It does not speak to that,” John explained.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that certain actions may be taken against officers of the Ministry who have violated the regulations. An opinion from the Attorney-General’s office is expected before a decision is taken.

The ministry also has now taken the approach to have only fully vaccinated nurses administer vaccines to members of the public.

A majority of nurses has so far declined to be vaccinated.

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