Published On: Mon, Jun 15th, 2020

Duncan: Cut the school subsidies by 12,5% and leave the schools alone (VIDEO)

Roland E. Duncan interview 20200611 AB

PHILIPSBURG — In a personal interview with StMaartenNews.com, Chairman of the Board of the St. Maarten Academy PSVE (Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education) Roland E. Duncan called on the government to just cut the school subsidy by 12,5% and leave his school alone.

In this interview, Roland Duncan, former minister of justice, talks about how the government is demanding 12,5% of the teacher’s salaries.

The government has instructed the schools to deduct 12,5% of the personnel costs. The schools don’t particularly have to touch salaries. However, as Duncan pointed out, the only personnel costs the schools have are the salaries.

As an experienced attorney at law, Duncan has several formal objections to this approach by the government. Schools are private foundations, not semi-public entities, as is the case with government-owned companies or entities. The government is only subsidizing the schools because of the CXC exams it offers to the public.

Therefore as chairperson of his school board, Duncan objects to doing the government’s work where Holland is concerned. “Holland says these are the conditions, and the government succumbs to that,” Duncan explained. The government is claiming solidarity is the reason for the schools to cut costs. “But our employees have their own trials and tribulation,” Duncan said.

“I have a labor agreement with employees. The laws set the authorities. The government cannot unilaterally change the law. It has to go to parliament. Parliament has to debate the law and then change the law. “That hasn’t happened!” said Duncan.

“Now the 1st of July,” continues Duncan. “Why would I stop paying and not honor a contract?” Duncan says he is going to honor the contract, as he is supposed to honor it.

“Government got a chance,” Duncan states emphatically. He offered government alternatives. “One of the alternatives is: government subsidizes the school. 12,5% represents about 1.2 million guilders a year. Deduct that from the subsidy. I am not going to be happy. But then if you reduce your subsidy and reduce your costs by 12,5%, thank you, God bless you and leave me alone!”

“Even if I fight it, it will take me six months before I get a proper answer. So you cut, you cut.”

“Another alternative,” continues Duncan. “You want to cut vacation allowance? Stop the monthly advance to pay the allowance. You would have had half the of the year saved by now, and you would have already saved 50% of the vacation allowance.”

Furthermore, Duncan says the government has a wrong premise. “The unions haven’t reached an agreement yet, what are you doing messing with people’s salary?” Duncan asks.

“Then you say as long as our laws are not trampled. Don’t try to force me to trample the law. If I cut someone’s salary, I am trampling the law.”

“Another alternative: every year government cuts the subsidy by 10% to hold back until the school boards submit audited statements, take the 12,5% out of that,” Duncan orders. “That is about 1 million guilders!”

After hurricane Irma, the school finished the repairs itself. “Government was supposed to reimburse that costs,” Duncan explains. “Government still has to do that.”

“They have a commitment based on the (subsidy) law to pay that costs,” Duncan says. “They never did. For years, long before Irma government has never paid the maintenance costs of the school.”

Therefore, Duncan states, he cannot, in good judgement propose to the board to cut the personnel staff unilaterally by 12,5%. “That’s our position.”

Government has been talking to the unions, but the unions have not agreed to anything yet. His school has a union. That is WITU (Windward Islands Teachers Union). “What the WITU discussed with government is not my business,” Duncan stated. “But if I cut teachers’ salaries, the union will be all over me. I am not doing their dirty work for them.

Duncan also explains that Knops has no jurisdiction over the schools. He describes how they met with the minister of education and had a very long meeting. “My school will be writing the minister a letter saying we are not doing that. We are giving him alternatives on how he can save and get back money and leave the schools alone.” Duncan concluded.

Watch the interview online here>>>


Related links:
Unions still at odds with government over salary cuts