Published On: Thu, May 28th, 2020

PM Jacobs: “Unions should be more reasonable”

Minister Silveria Jacobs

PHILIPSBURG – The government’s decision to accept the kingdom’s conditions for liquidity support is not going down well with civil servant and their unions. That much is clear from the meeting the unions organized at the Little League Ball Park on Monday. Illegal workers and the lack of cost of living adjustments in the face of rising prices were among the arguments against “hitting on civil servants.”

Because the government has accepted the Dutch conditions, the room for negotiating alternatives to the looming 12.5 percent salary cut seems to be slim to nonexistent. This also appears from a letter Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs sent to her civil servants.

“Our proposal to the unions is reasonable and fair,” Jacobs wrote. “The unions should be more reasonable and fair in their approach towards government.”

The prime minister said with a reference to the LMA – the rulebook for civil servant – that “the labor conditions of a worker/employee can only be amended if the worker/employee has explicitly consented to the change.”

We did not find any such rule in the LMA. On the contrary, the LMA simply states that salaries for civil servants are established in a national decree containing general measures – a so-called LBHAM (Landsbesluit houdende algemene maatregelen). Such a decree does not require approval by Parliament.

Another piece of legislation – the Bezoldigingsregeling Ambtenaren – states in article 20 that civil servants have the option to file an appeal against decisions about their salaries within 30 days after that decision was taken. Such an appeal does not suspend the execution of the decision.

Then there is the GOA – the platform for organized consultation for civil servants. It handles “all matters related to the legal position of civil servants.” But again, this platform is an advisory committee and there is no sanction if the government takes decisions without consulting it.

Jacobs summarizes the conditions the government has accepted for the reception of liquidity support in her letter that seems to be asking civil servants for their understanding. After quoting Confucius, the Prime Minister wrote: “No civil servant should believe there is a conflict between complying with the law and serving the government of the day.”

Furthermore, Jacobs notes: “We should stand together in this time of crisis.”

Given the sentiments expressed at the union-rally at the Little league Ball Park, quite some civil servants will stand together – not with, but against the government. They simply do not want the government to touch their salaries.

On Facebook, a video shows former MP and United People’s party founder Theo Heyliger saying: “It seems that every time there is a crisis the National Alliance is in charge. I don’t know how that happens.”

The quote stems from the situation that arose after Hurricane Irma. Now that the corona-virus has created another crisis, the UP finds itself on the wrong side of the divide: together with the National Alliance, the party is now also responsible for handling the crisis.

Franklin Jefferson, on behalf of a group of concerned teachers, has reached out to Finance Minister Ardwell Irion with a letter that suggests an alternative for salary cuts. Jefferson proposes a 50 percent cut in vacation allowances for 2020 and 2021 and reimbursement in 2022.

“We, the teachers are in solidarity with the whole island of Sint Maarten during yet another trying time,” Jefferson wrote. He furthermore remarks that the teachers union (WITU) represents more than 200 teachers and that it has done a great job. “However, while it is a respected organization, they do not speak for the entire population of teachers.”

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Relevant links:
Opinion piece by Hilbert Haar: What is reasonable?
Open Letter: “Reasonable Offer
COM letter to the unions
Union rally at the Little League Ball Park
SXM Daily News Report May 27, 2020
Facebook video Theo Heyliger speech