(SNO) — Home Affairs Minister, Hermangild Francis, has placed Chairman of the Saint Lucia Firefighters Association, Shane Felix, in his cross hairs as strike by firefighters on the island drags on with no end in sight.
Speaking on Real FM’s News Spin with Timothy Poleon on Thursday, Francis said Felix is using the current situation to “re-engineer himself”.
“Shane, he does what he wants in the fire service and nobody can speak to him,” he stated. “So this is the time that he is using, this is the opportunity to re-engineer himself, to make himself look as the god-send.”
The firefighters went on strike in an ongoing impasse between the government and the SLTA over wage negotiation for the 2016-2019 triennium and other matters it say have been affecting the fire service for decades.
Felix has been the public face of the firefighters in the matter, appearing on several TV newscasts and radio programs. But he has been under intense pressure with the government deeming the strike illegal and demanding that the firefighters return to work.
Francis said that Felix is taking a “personal decision” in the matter “because of his own attitude”.
“You have an individual, that has been reported for disciplinary matters for failing to follow instructions, for failing to go on transfers, for insubordination,” he stated. “Every senior officer has reported Mr. Shane, starting from the present chief when he was just an officer in 2009 and 2010. Then you had Mr. Fontanelle who was his very good friend, reporting him in 2010 and 2011.”
Francis went on to allege that Felix was even suspended for two months on disciplinary action.
But the matter took another turn when a person who identified himself as a firefighter called News Spin in defense of Felix and to confront Francis.
“I want you to know that when it comes to Mr. Shane Felix, there has not been one moment where the gentleman has ever planted ideas in our heads,” the man said. “We vote on everything as an association, whether it comes to strike actions, whether it comes to withholding labour, it is always done as a collective.”
The person described Francis’ statements as shameful.
“I think to attack the gentleman’s character, that is a shame on your part because no matter what he does when it comes to his work environment, when it comes to be a president of an association, we look at the gentleman as a leader,” he said. “We look at the gentleman as a man who can represent us because it is impossible to have 300-plus persons coming on television, coming on radio.”
The man told Francis that he should stop attacking Felix.
“With all due respect, I think you should stop attacking the gentleman’s character and look at him as the president of our association, representing our interest which we have voted for,” he said.