Caribbean Briefs for April 23-09

VIOLENCE MARS ELECTION

 Port-au-Prince, Haiti: The nation’s senate elections were marred by violence on Sunday, forcing authorities to cancel voting at some polling stations.

Several people were wounded during clashes between supporters of rival candidates.

One member of the security forces was wounded as police and United Nations forces exchanged fire with civilian gunmen in one town.

Observers said that less than 10 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

The country’s largest political party, the Lavalas Family Party, had urged an election boycott after its candidates were barred from contesting the election.

The ballot was held to elect 12 candidates to the Senate.

 CLASSES CANCELLED

 Castries, St. Lucia: St. Lucian teachers forced the cancellation of classes on Monday by meeting to discuss their pay dispute with the government.

The teachers have rejected a government proposal to postpone a promised wage increase until the current economic situation improves, and plan to hold a protest today.

Civil servants have accused the administration of Prime Minister Stephenson King of gross disrespect in proposing the wage freeze.

 JOB FREEZE

 St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda: Due to the global economic crisis, the government has placed an immediate freeze on new employment and plans to reduce spending on federal programs.

The finance ministry also announced that all new government programs will be put on hold during the year and there will be no extension of existing programs.

Overtime payment will also be reduced while approval will have to be sought from the financial secretary for expenditures in excess of US$2,000.

 UNION CRITICIZED

 Kingston, Jamaica: A group of teachers have accused their union, the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), of not negotiating effectively on their behalf.

The teachers say they have already written to the JTA, withdrawing from the association.

Some are also threatening to picket the JTA’s offices to voice their concern.

Their statements followed a recent announcement from Prime Minister Bruce Golding that the government is unable to honour an agreement for salary increases because of the financial crisis.

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