End of an era
Thomas Letang of the Dominica Public Service Union prepares to pass on the baton
For nearly three decades, General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU)) Thomas Letang has been at the forefront of the fight for public officers in Dominica. But now, the DPSU boss has his eyes set on a new mission- retirement.
"The time is approaching," Letang said. "I have to hand it over to someone else and right now, while I cannot say whether this will be done in the next week, months, or year, it is something that I am preparing for this."
Amidst having his personal properties damaged, threats to his family and himself as well as several other adversities, he has stood unmoved, therefore it's no surprise that whoever will be replacing him will have some big shoes to fill.
"I have started putting in place my succession plan, and identifying someone who can replace me to eventually take this to the executive," he stated.
But before Letang leaves, he says that he will do all in his power to ensure that the much-talked-about Trade Union Congress (TUC) or some semblance of unification among the trade union in Dominica, becomes a reality.
He disclosed that last month members of his executive met and have made the decision to invite the other unions to a discussion on the formation of the congress.
"However, we have taken a decision that if other unions are not interested, we will proceed with the formation of some kind of national body because what we have said is we do not believe that it is fair to the members who will benefit from a trade union congress or some kind of national organisation and for whatever reason people are preventing it from happening," he said.
"So at the DPSU we took a decision that we will not rest until we bring these unions together, those who are interested because what has been keeping it back is that some unions were not showing any interest and because of that, we have allowed that to prevent us from moving forward," Letang said. "Right now at the DPSU, our position is that we will do everything possible within the next few months or so, to start something because we believe and we are confident that when we come together, we can achieve more".
He points out that the TUC will bring the unions together to ensure that there is solidarity among the members and executives of each organisation and allow their voices to be heard greater on national issues.
According to the DSPU Gen Sec this does not mean that the union is going to lose its power.
"We will still be able to function as an individual union, that will not be taken away," he said. "There are times when the unions will have to issue their own statement, but the fact that we will be a greater voice, there will be solidarity, so I believe that in itself is one of the major advantages of coming together."
Believed by supporters to be the leading trade union in the Caribbean, the success of the DPSU can be traced back to the date of Letang's appointment in 1994; where he succeeded predecessor Alvin Thomas and initiated many steps that have since changed the dynamics of the union.
These include medical insurance schemes, educational loans, membership cards - which provide discounts, scholarships to children of members attending secondary school, and skill development classes to members bettering their chances at being appointed.
In addition to public servants, Letang and his team can boast of successful negotiations for certain employees of the Dominica Social Security (DSS), Flow Dominica, The Dominica Water and Sewerage Company Limited (DOWASCO), and Ross University, to name a few.