Published On: Fri, Oct 2nd, 2020

Union leader Claire Elshot disappointed with statements Prime Minister

PHILIPSBURG — President of WITU and member of CCSU, Mrs. Claire Elshot, is disappointed with the statements made by the Minister of General Affairs in the Council of Ministers Press briefing of September 30, 2020, and in the Daily Herald newspaper of October 1, 2020.

“It is with great disappointment that as member of the CCSU, I have taken note of the statements made by the Minister of General Affairs, Ms. Silveira Jacobs, during the press briefing of yesterday, September 30, 2020, and in the press release in the Daily Herald of October 1, 2020.” Elshot wrote in a statement to this media house.

“I would therefore like to set the record straight by reacting with the factual sequence of events that would clearly show that the accusations levied against the secretariat and its members is unfounded and not exact.” Elshot explained.

“The Government is claiming that the members of the CCSU, and the Civil Servants who are part of the Secretariat are refusing to meet with Government. This is an unfortunate turn of events that needs to be clarified. This is the same secretariat that was requested to chair and or coordinate meetings starting with the meeting of May 7, 2020, where the Cost Cutting Measures was introduced, and all the other meetings that were held including the mediation of the very intense and now famous meeting of May 28, 2020, where even though the behavior of our elected officials took the role of reprimanding the unions, the secretariat was able to diffuse the situation and got parties to “speak to each other instead of speaking at each other” with the end result being that we can now boast of having a productive outcome of that meeting.”

During the negotiations of the meeting of May 28, 2020, verbal agreements were made between parties on 6 of the 7 points that were discussed, Elshot further explained in her statement. “The one point that was not agreed upon was that of the vacation allowance as this involved the membership of the unions and the mandate of the membership was needed to be able to give the go ahead on this point.”

“It was agreed that due to the deadline that the COM (in specific) the Minister of Finance had with the CFT for June 5, 2020, an agreement with the Unions was needed in order to move forward.”

“An urgent meeting was called on the following day (Friday) May 29, 2020, with the membership of the Unions to be able to inform them of the latest developments and get their input. The membership was not in full agreement but after much deliberation decided that the only way, they would agree to repayment of the deferred vacation allowance is if it was placed in a LBHAM with certain conditions attached.”

The Union in turn submitted this response to the Minister of General affairs on June 1, 2020, and finally received an answer dated July 11, 2020. After various reminders were sent inquiring if the proposal from the membership met the approval of the Minister of General Affairs, a letter was received on June 11, 2020. In the letter of June 11, 2020, the unions were then informed that the submitted proposal could not be accepted in its entirety as this would bring more measures from the Netherlands, and suggestion was made as to how it should be worded and the deferred payment would then depend on the liquidity position of the government and paid up to 25%.

Following that, numerous letters were sent to the Minister of General Affairs requesting further dialogue especially where it pertained to the payment of the vacation allowance with no response or late response.

During this period the Secretariat also reached out to the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, in an effort to bring parties back to the table and finalize the meeting of May 28, 2020. The date of August 7, 2020 was set for the meeting. On July 27, 2020, the members of the CCSU received a communication from the Minister of General, requesting two representatives of the CCSU to form part of a workgroup that was to come to an agreement on a totally new set of measures and had to have this agreement completed by August 7, 2020.

This work group was established outside of the CCSU with a new Chairperson and not done in accordance with the rules that govern the CCSU. “As one can imagine I was taken a back as I was preparing for a meeting of August 7, 2020, with the hope of finalizing the discussion that was started on May 28, 2020.” Elshot stated. “I felt at that point that the way forward was contradicting and confusing.”

A complaint was then filed at the Ombudsman, with the objective for mediation to take place in an effort for parties to be able to dialogue on pending matters and foster the way forward in a respectful manner. This initiative was met with resistance by the minister of General Affairs as she objected by stating that the CCSU is a Government entity and thus the complaint filed with the ombudsman is should be declared inadmissible.

“For me this is clearly circumventing the CCSU to carry out one’s own agenda and thus pointing fingers at the members and the Secretariat for not having meetings.” wrote Elshot in her statement.

It is customary when new Ministers take office the secretariat holds an introductory meeting with both the Minister of General Affairs and the Minister of Justice as they are the stakeholders with the CCSU based on the LMA. This was done with both Ministers and the secretariat also mentioned this in the meeting of May 28, 2020, with all the members of the COM present especially seeing that these Ministers were sworn during the Covid 19 lock down period.

Additionally, the Secretariat met in an introductory meeting on August 20, 2020, with the Minister of justice to explain the role of the secretariat of the CCSU The violation of the various laws and regulations where it pertains to the functioning of the CCSU did not begin with the Cost Cutting Measures. Various communications from the secretariat to the Minister of General Affairs informing of the non-compliance in accordance with the LMA, was constantly ignored.

“My hope for the meeting tomorrow with the Ombudsman is for us to be able to find the way forward and be able to sit around the table, and that respect will be given to the CCSU as is given to any other advisory bodies.” Elshot continued.

Elshot concluded her statement by writing:

“I would not continue as a member to see all the work that has been done by the secretariat and the members be thrown through this kind of narrative as in the article that was submitted by the Minister of General Affairs.”

“As member of the CCSU, I remain committed to defending the rights of the Civil Servants and Teachers and to sit around the table to dialogue on the way forward.”

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CCSU members and secretariat refuse to meet with Council of Ministers