The Union presented its counter-proposal to the Government of St. Maarten, via the Committee of Civil Servants Union on Thursday, May 14, 2020, by email. Our counter-proposal presented a list of measures that will not affect the salaries and vacation allowance of civil servants. Instead, it focuses on other areas by which Government can reduce its expenditure and save money.
Some examples are: cutting the travel costs of Government, cutting consultancy fees, freezing training, reducing gas vouchers and use of Government vehicles, encourage Ministers to purchase gas from their own salaries instead of using gas vouchers, reduce the transitional allowance of Ministers and Members of Parliament from 2 years to 3 months, freeze monthly credit cards of Ministers until the end of 2020, place all civil servants, who were Ministers or Parliamentarians, back in their function before June 16, 2020, without the transition allowance, reduce the salaries, stipends and allowances of top positions, committee members on boards, across all Government-owned companies or agencies, freeze the election budget for the next 3 years, etc. These proposed cost-cutting measures will save the Government more than Naf. 100,000,000 (one hundred million). Which is much more than the Naf.10,000,000 (ten million) the honorable Minister of Finance projects to save with cost-cutting measures on civil servants’ wages.
The unions recognize that no one is responsible for the emergence and disastrous effects of the unprecedented COVID 19 virus to St. Maarten’s economy, healthcare system, labor market and society on a whole. As workers representatives, the Union is always ready and willing to collaborate with our social partners, in this case, the esteemed Government of St. Maarten to successfully navigate through the far-reaching consequences of the social and economic impact of COVID 19.
The Unions, however, would be remiss if it did not point out its grave concerns regarding Government’s unsavory and ad hoc approach in presenting, the proposed cost-cutting measures in the public sector, to the Unions.
The first meeting in question did not comply with the conditions and procedures as laid down in article 112 of the LMA which stipulates in no uncertain terms that Government is required to submit a request for approval from the Committee of Civil Servants Union, especially when it pertains to making any changes that will directly impact their legal position and rights as civil servants. Said advice must be accompanied and presented with supporting documents to be reviewed by the Committee of Civil Servants Union. It has been said on many occasions that St. Maarten is a nation of laws and said laws are still valid even in a crisis or pandemic. Therefore, given the rush to fast track a host of measures that will in no uncertain way directly impact civil servants, it stands to reason whether or not, the unions were expected to circumvent and deviate from rules and laws governing this very important process. Please know that during the meeting of Wednesday, May 14, 2020, the Council of Ministers were asked to submit all relevant and supporting information as is customary, in order for the members/unions to make a sound and evidenced decision-based on facts. The Members are yet to receive such documentation. Nonetheless, the Members submitted their counter-proposal that would save the Government more than the Naf. 10,000,000 the Minister of Finance is looking to save by cutting civil servant salaries and vacation allowances, bonuses, etc.
The Windward Islands Civil Servants Union – W.I.C.S.U.
The Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Union- W.I.C.L.U.
Windward Island Teachers Union – W.I.T.U.
Nederlands Antilliaanse Politie Bond -N.A.P. B.
Algemene Bond van Overheidspersoneel - A.B.V.O