President Daniel Gibbs talks at a press conference Saturday about the CTOS strike, accompanied by First Vice-President Valérie Damaseau, CTOS President Pascale Ali-Laborde, Third Vice-President Annick Pétrus, and CTOS Director of Human Resources Myra Trival-Faulech. (Photo Robert Luckock)
MARIGOT–President Daniel Gibbs told reporters at a press conference Saturday that Caisse Territorial des Oeuvres Scolaires (CTOS) cannot proceed with new recruitment to replace sixteen terminated contracts as the budgetary situation of CTOS and the Collectivité, as well as recommendations from the Chambre Territorial des Comptes (CTC) cannot justify new hiring.
A letter to this effect, pertaining to the first of four priority points from 18 grievances submitted, was sent to Union des Travailleurs du Collectivité and Union General des Travailleurs de Guadeloupe (UTC-UGTG) Secretary Nicole Javois White on Friday, February 8.
Gibbs said he could not jeopardise an already very precarious financial situation by conceding to the recruitment requests and accepted this may prolong the indefinite strike which began on Wednesday, January 30. However, he has appealed to the union to suspend the strike as work continues on addressing the grievances.
The strike has been having a negative impact on schools and drawing the anger of parents. Some school entrances have been found chained and padlocked, or door locks glued to prevent them being opened, requiring the intervention of the Gendarmerie to gain access.
“Between September and October 2017, CTOS was confronted with the urgent need to restart public service activity after Irma. Out of 75 persons concerned, 16 of them, as permitted by law, decided to make an amicable appeal, citing non-compliance with recruitment procedures and requesting integration as civil servants within the Collectivité,” Gibbs explained.
“In July 2018, after negotiations with the UTC-UGTG union, I took the decision by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to recruit these 16 employees who within the deadline made use of amicable means. At the same time, following the financial difficulties encountered by the Collectivité and the CTOS, we had to engage in an optimization plan that prevented me from implementing this protocol.
“Aware of the impact of such a decision, I immediately mobilized our partners Pôle Emploi (Employment Office) and the National Education Department, so that 75 employees (and not only the 16) can benefit from a personalized follow-up for a quick return to work (more than a hundred offers were to be filled), but also with paid training. This work has been carried out with our partners, it is up to the people concerned to take the necessary steps.
“I can hear the anger and frustration and while I am particularly aware of the financial situation of these fathers and mothers, I cannot, without jeopardizing the Collectivité’s already very precarious financial situation by responding positively to these recruitment requests.
“With regard to the situation of children and students, I am aware of the staffing problems, but here too the solution cannot be found through recruitment but through a re-organization of services. You should be aware that more than 80% of CTOS employees are paid full-time even though most of them are not able to work their full working hours due to their job or function.
“It is therefore up to us to re-deploy and reorganize services, but also to work with associations in order to welcome our students in the best conditions. We have asked to suspend the strike to start substantive work on the union’s other time-consuming demands. This movement strongly penalizes the public service and cannot be sustained.
“I would like to reassure everyone that my services will continue to work on putting into order staff members’ files, on a case-by-case basis. This is a long-term task that we have begun and we are ready to work in partnership with the unions.”