We don't usually hear much from firefighters, but tonight, they are making the news, because they've written to our media house to complain that they have been shoved around for years in their pursuit of promotions which were promised and never delivered.
In the unsigned, undated letter, the firefighters introduce themselves by making the point that they are turning to the press as a last resort, in the hope of getting some answers.
The writers say that back in 2017, a group of 17 firefighters took a leading promotional course, and all of them were successful in completing it. They were given a certificate like this one, to signify that they had completed the course. It came as a part of their pass-out graduation ceremony.
Then in 2019, another group of almost 30 firefighters was selected to undergo the same leading firefighter course. The letter claims that all participants achieved "exemplary passes", and they were given that certificate to prove their achievement. The letter says that at the beginning of each course, both groups of firefighters were told that after completion, and some necessary administrative paperwork, they would be promoted in rank.
But, as of January 2021, none of the almost 47 firefighters have received any promotion that was promised to them. They declare that they would not be going public if they were given some kind of explanation as to why they haven't been promoted.
The letter says that there are firefighters who have more than 15 years who have taken promotional courses more than once, and at this time, they still cannot get promoted.
And, probably the biggest demonstration of low department morale is made when the letter says quote, "Firefighters believe that they are always left at the bottom of the barrel, simply because they are not a revenue source for the Government, but instead, they are looked at as a loss, andâ€¦ are treated unfairly." End quote.
The letter also asserts that every year, their budget is cut. We have sought comment on this issue from Fire Chief Collin Gillett, Dr. Kenrick Williams, the CEO in the Ministry responsible for the National Fire Service, and Minister Orlando Habet.
This evening, Fire Chief Gillett told us, quote, "We will be sending them a full explanation about their promotions." End quote.
Shortly before the start of the news, Minister Habet responded to our request for comment. Via WhatsApp, Habet said, quote, "My CEO and I have discussed the issue and we are charting a way forward. We also have to find the funding in these difficult times to pay whatever compensations are due but it will take some time.
We will be working on the promotions and including the necessary changes in the new budget.
Immediately, we are trying to move firefighters in their hometown or district so that it boosts morale and comfort of being close to their family.
Work conditions will come with some time but will gradually be improved. Infrastructure is expensive and will need GOB investment. But we will look for assistance otherwise also." End quote.