Published On: Tue, Mar 29th, 2022

Union fights Telem over merit max bonus

PHILIPSBURG — The court order to reinstate the group savings plan is not the only financial headache telecom provider TelEm is facing. The St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU) is also demanding, through a letter of its attorney Monique Hofman-Ruigrok, that it stops cutting salaries in an attempt to recover an earlier paid out so-called 14-month merit max bonus.

According to the union the merit max bonus is for employees who have reached the top of their salary scale and who therefore cannot expect anymore salary increases. The bonus is based on performance evaluations. If employees get a score of 3.4, the bonus will be 3.4 percent of their monthly salary multiplied by 12.

The union states in an email “that there is a difference between a salary increase and a one-time bonus (paid as a lump sum),” basically because it does not affect other benefits like vacation allowances, performance bonuses and jubilee bonuses.

The SMCU sent “many emails” about this issue to TelEm management, but to no avail. CEO Kendall Dupersoy “maintains his position and keeps collecting the bonus the employees received in 2021. The bonus from 2021 was not paid out in January 2022 either.

“The cost cutting measures cannot be applied to merit max bonus,” attorney Hofman-Ruigrok wrote to Dupersoy on December 17, 2021. “This bonus does not constitute a salary increase nor can it be qualified as end of year bonus or profit sharing.”

Hofman-Ruigrok emphasized that the cost cutting measures “are not applicable to one-time / lump sum payments to employees. They are applicable to increases of salaries and other benefits mentioned in the agreement between client and TelEm. Lump sum payments are not mentioned in that list.”

The attorney demands that TelEm stops the reimbursement claims and to repay the already collected salary-reductions. “Failure to comply will result in further steps.”

Given the statement from the SMCU that TelEm keeps collecting installments of the previously paid out bonus, it looks like the company will be heading to court again in the near future.


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