General secretary of the Postal Union David Forbes has demanded an apology from Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales for misleading the public into thinking postal workers solicited money from the public for Christmas.
In a phone interview with Newsday on Wednesday, Forbes said the minister, being new to his office, was not familiar with how postal workers serve communities, specifically around Christmas.
“Those workers would work specific routes for the year, and as an appreciation of their service, householders would give a token of appreciation.”
He said it has never been mandatory for the public to give anything.
Forbes said the practice began over 35 years ago, when members of the public would ask for an envelope to leave a token of their appreciation in or would give a donation in the envelope.
“It became a tradition thereafter…Management is fully aware of the practice,” he said, adding that it began long before the postal service became incorporated in 1999.
On Tuesday, the ministry issued a statement which warned the public about reports of unsealed envelopes stamped “Season’s greetings from your district postman,” received in mailboxes in some districts.
In the statement Gonzales condemned those who engaged in the practice, urged them to stop, and warned that strong disciplinary action would be taken against offenders.
It said he mandated the board of management of TTPost to undertake urgent and immediate measures to identify those responsible.
Forbes said, “He would have indicated that the workers are holding the public to ransom for monetary donation.
"The minister is misleading the public. He should apologise for making such a comment.”
Forbes said workers were hurt by what the minister had said, adding postal workers do more than just deliver mail, and go beyond their core duties and responsibilities in their communities.
“They are community people, and at the end of the year they are appreciated in that regard.”
He said a worker was suspended on Wednesday morning.
“We believe the management was pressured to suspend the worker.”
He said the minister should retract his statement immediately and return the worker to her duties.
“In similar situations, garbage collectors would also receive tokens from their communities.”
He said the minster should focus on more pressing issues involving postal workers, including proper remuneration, which has been ongoing since 2013 and outstanding job evaluations since 2012.
TTPost managing director Francis Lucien Delpesh, in a brief statement to Newsday, confirmedan internal investigation is taking place.
On Wednesday, during a site visit to Africa Street, John John, Gonzales said he was taken aback by the union’s response.
“I have no problem with any customer appreciating their postal worker and giving them a bottle of wine or ponche de crème, as the case may be – but leave it up to the customer.
“To make that contribution by leaving empty envelopes to solicit donations is highly unethical, dangerous and not to be encouraged in any sector, because it opens the door for other unethical practice whereby you cannot make the distinction between a gift or a bribe.”
Gonzales repeated that the practice has to stop.
“If it is happening in other sectors, I encourage Cabinet colleagues to stop the practice.”