Published On: Fri, May 22nd, 2020

No protection for civil servants against lower salaries

PHILIPSBURG – Now that the government has accepted the Kingdom’s conditions for liquidity support, the salaries of civil servants and politicians are up for review: a 25 percent cut in the remuneration of politicians and a 12.5 percent cut for civil servants.

Earlier we reported that lowering salaries is not all that simple. But on closer inspection it appears that the government has total control over this issue where it concerns the salaries for its civil servants. While Members of Parliament have to approve a national ordinance to regulate their lowered salaries, civil servants are basically at the mercy of the Council of Ministers because their income is regulated in a national decree containing general measures, usually described as an LBHAM.

So where does this leave civil servants who will get in financial trouble if the government makes good on its promise to State Secretary Knops? They will discover that the LMA – the rulebook for civil servants – does not offer them any protection.

This is because their remuneration is regulated in an LBHAM – a decision the responsible minister can take without approval by the parliament.

There is a provision in article 3 of the national ordinance organized consultation civil servants (GOA); it stipulates that this committee handles all matters related to the legal position of civil servants before a decision is taken.

But the GOA is an advisory committee – it does not have any real power and the government has the option to skip consultation about lowering salaries. There is no sanction for making decisions without consultation.

That leaves civil servants who are going to be unhappy with a lower salary one option: an administrative appeal. This is regulated in the LBHAM remuneration regulation civil servants. Article 20 of this decree stipulates that civil servants can appeal a decision about their salary within 30 days after a decision to this extent by the government.

However, the appeal does not suspend the execution of the decision.

The government has to make a decision about an appeal within one month but it has the option to extend this term with another month.

In other words, civil servants who appeal a decision about their salaries could be three months with less money in their pockets before they hear from the government. And given the circumstances, the government has only one option: deny such an appeal.

For members of Parliament and members of the Council of Ministers the situation is different. Their remuneration has to be regulated in a national ordinance – and that requires approval by Parliament.

Image caption: Collage of photos of union members gathered today at the Government Administration Building on Pond Island awaiting a meeting with the Prime Minister. Photos provided for use to StMaartenNews.com.

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