The labor Union WICSU -PSU is reflecting back on the last 10 years of St. Maarten being a “Country”, The question that comes to mind is What do we have to look back on? Ten years in a change of status from the former Netherlands Antilles to Country status, what are the highlights of this era especially for the working class of this Country during this new status? As a union, we are disappointed that the report when it comes to the worker is not one of change, but one of hardship and in some cases poverty. The plight of the worker got even more difficult and less attention was/is being paid to the needs of the workers.
Ten years of numerous governments, some were repetitive, and all the workers and the unions got were empty promises. The workers became important during campaign season after that the promises made and the issues campaigned on were forgotten. When the Unions would remind them of their unjust ways of dealing with the workers it would become an attack on the Unions. The workers would be told that the unions are not acting in good faith.
Payment of the Cost of living adjustment (COLA) has been a constant narrative of the union, yet it falls on deaf ears. There are never funds to pay the COLA, but we are constantly going to the polls. To pay for an election, cost way more than the total cost of the payout of the COLA. Shall we remind the decision-makers that approach these same workers for their vote that they are still waiting for the payment of the COLA? Was the Cessantia every addressed in all these years?
The finalization of the function books for the Justice Ministry is still an ongoing battle. Many Ministers have played with the emotion of the same workers that protect and serve this country, promises were made, half-truths were executed under the guise of campaign rhetoric. Ministers, not communicating with the unions that represent these workers and making decisions that are not in the best interest of the Justice worker, and when the union speaks up, they are not acting in good faith. There is a saying that goes why reinvent the wheel when it is already spinning. The justice workers could have long been placed in their proper functions and salary scale if the decision-makers would only dialogue with the unions as we have been there from day one. How many more is going to come and want to do things their way instead of just finalizing what is already in place.
How many slogans have we not heard about getting rid of the six-month contract in the private sector, ten years later and it is still there. There were many campaign promises that this was going to be dealt with. What about the minimum wage? When are we going to have a living wage? I would like to look ask our leaders to exchange their salary for just one month with one of our private-sector workers and see how they survive.
The price to survive as a worker is very high in what we call the friendly island St. Maarten, Workers cannot afford to feed their family a healthy meal as the prices in the supermarkets are so high and the wages does not change.
When the government was asked to increase their basket of goods to include cost-cutting measures in the areas of telephone, food, utilities etc. their response was it is in our governing plan. Where and at what time it will be implemented might be on the second anniversary of the change in country status.
The union has not seen one labor law changed in the benefit of the worker. The worker is always the sacrificial lamb. We have seen the pension age increase twice with the possibility of a third increase. Where is the benefit for the worker while all they hear fancy words like resilient and hardworking and survivors? It is expected for the worker to be all of the above with the unjust hand that is being dealt to them.
The union is once again asking what is there to celebrate? Take those finances and give it to the workers to plant a tree of appreciation in the mind and pockets of the workers.
The union is once again this time publicly asking the decision-makers to give the working class a reason to celebrate by at the least setting the following into motion:
- Implement a living wage. (use the amount paid on the French Side as an example)
- Abolish the six-month contract.
- Index the wages; Pay the COLA that is owed
- Adjust the worker's salary yearly with the cost of living adjustment
- Implement Price controls on basic goods in the supermarkets
- Control the cost of Electricity
Give the working class a reason to celebrate.