Published On: Sun, Jun 21st, 2020

Silent protest going on at SMMC; Staff wants CFO to go

SMMC staff wearing black tops

~ Staff submitted a petition letter with grievances against CFO; wearing black tops to silently voice their protest at work ~

CAY HILL — On Thursday, June 18, 2020, the staff in the Finance Department of the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) started to wear black tops. This as a result of the ongoing intimidation, disrespect, and bullying of staff members by the CFO and his attempt to muffle the staff, forcing them to stay quiet about their treatment. The staff gave the management team until Friday, June 19, to respond by midday to their demands. These demands were submitted by letter to the management team on Tuesday, June 16. However, on Friday, management sent an email to the union requesting more time to respond to the letter. Friday afternoon, the union held a meeting with some 64 staff members of the various  SMMC departments at the WIFOL building on the Long Wall Road to discuss the situation.

SMMC staff in Union meeting 1

According to the SMMC union leader, Mrs. Brunilda Illidge, this passive action will escalate by Monday, June 22, if the union doesn’t hear anything regarding the submitted letter. The letter regards a petition of no-confidence in the Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Marco Meulenman. In a show of support, the cashiers, some twenty at the SMMC building in Cay Hill and four at the KPMG supportive building in Madame Estate, and the nursing personnel wore black ribbons in support of the finance group.

SMMC staff at WIFOL building

“We want him out on the first KLM flight as soon as PJIA airport opens.” the workers said. “Because he can’t come here and be disrespecting our people.”

On Friday, June 19, the union met with SMMC workers at the WIFOL building on the Longwall Road in Philipsburg at 5 pm. In the video below, readers can see the union leader, Brunilda C. Illidge, addressing the gathering.

Video caption: SMMC worker gathered at the WIFOL on Friday afternoon, June 19, 2020

StMaartenNews.com contacted the long time union leader, Brunilda Illidge, who worked 33 years at the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for a statement. Illidge, who took over the leadership of the Windward Islands Health Care Union Association (WIHCUA) from the then leader, Julian Lynch, has been in the position for over ten years. Illidge is a passionate and very vocal woman and has been championing the rights of the medical workers since she came to the island from Aruba in 1986.

Brunilda Illidge

Complaints against the CFO

Illidge explained that Meulenman started to work as CFO at SMMC right after hurricane Irma with a five-year contract. One of the grievances of the staff was that Meulenman was never properly introduced to the team. According to accounts, Meulenman quickly proved to be someone who was not nice to the staff in his approach towards them. He would treat the staff in a disrespectful and unmannerly fashion.

In particular, his rude treatment of a co-worker in the Finance Department ultimately led to the workers requesting a meeting on Tuesday, April 28, with the management team regarding the behaviour of the CFO. The staff expressed their grievances and told the management team how they felt. According to the union leader, the staff thought that the CFO, who was present at the meeting, had heard what they said. The staff expected a positive outcome from the meeting.

Illidge explained that based on the three pillars of what SMMC stood for: Safety, Satisfaction, and Health for the staff and clients of the medical center, the workers expected the SMMC management to take action and give them a positive outcome for the meeting.

SMMC staff in Union meeting 2

Things only got worst

According to Illidge, things only got worst from that point on. The CFO wrote up an incident report on the co-worker that complained about him. The CFO instructed the staff member not to report anything to anyone and not to discuss matters with other staff members. Illidge explained that this particular worker is not a member of the union. However, the worker brought the incident report to the attention of the union. Illidge stated that the association is there to fight for all workers’ rights, especially when it comes to bullying tactics and intimidation.

During one of the union’s regular bi-weekly meetings with the management team at the SMMC on Tuesday, June 16, the staff entered the conference room with two envelopes. One for the management team and one for the union. The envelopes contained a petition letter from the staff members of the finance department. The staff gave them time to read the letter and gave the management a deadline to respond by Friday, June 19, at 12pm. The petition mainly contained a reiteration of how the workers feel and a call to management to take action. The retired nurse and union leader said that, in essence, the workers wanted the head of the CFO.

Illidge explained that management responded on Friday, June 19, at precisely 12pm via email. In the message, management complained about mistakes in the letter and, due to the length of the letter and its content, asked for at least three more weeks to respond. In the meantime, management indicated that they wanted a meeting with the union regarding this matter. Through a letter of Saturday, June 20, the union informed management that it has to respond to the workers’ petition. The union felt there was no need to hold a separate meeting on the matter.

SMMC staff at WIFOL building in meeting

Protest has nothing to do with salary cuts

Illidge confirmed to StMaartenNews.com that the ongoing silent protest with the workers wearing black tops has nothing to do with salary cuts or cost-cutting measures. The workers at SMMC are quite satisfied with their salaries and benefits. At no time has the SMMC indicated that there is a need for salary cuts or any other austerity measures resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting on Tuesday with the management team consisting of some of the department heads was about the usual discussions regarding matters in the collective labor agreement.

The staff is adamant in their expectation of a response by Monday. The union warns of further escalation if the grievances of the staff are not addressed properly to the satisfaction of the workers.

Peaceful march against discrimination

SMMC sfaff member wearing black ribbonCoincidentally, on Monday, June 22, the unified unions, members of the Windward Island Chamber of Labor Unions (WICLU), will be holding a formal manifestation. The unions intend to convene at the WIFOL building on the Long Wall Road at 9 am. From there, they will march peacefully in Philipsburg through Front Street. The purpose of the march is to show solidarity against racial discrimination and to demand respect for human rights. Illidge confirmed that the WIHCUA and its members will also be attending this manifestation. The WIHCUA is also part of the WICLU.

StMaartenNews.com reached out to the management of SMMC to comment on the staff’s petition but was referred to the medical director, Dr. Felix Holiday. StMaartenNews.com will provide an update once we have spoken with Dr. Holiday.

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UPDATES: Monday, June 22, 2020
Peaceful march against discrimination
Protest action at SMMC escalates