Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2020

Racial discrimination

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

There is something to be said in favor of the approach the labor unions have chosen to put up a fight against the inevitable cuts in labor conditions the kingdom demands in exchange for continued liquidity support.

Rather than setting Philipsburg on fire or looting stores as is happening in Curacao, the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions has opted to address its concerns with the office of the Attorney General.

Whether such a complaint stands any chance of success is another matter. Personally, I don’t see how the Prosecutor’s Office can make a case against what is basically a political decision. But who knows: if you never try anything you will never get any wiser either; so far, an A for effort.

What bothers me – and not because I just happen to be a white guy – is why the unions have to play the race card. Is the condition that the government has to cut the labor conditions for civil servants by 12.5 percent a matter of racial discrimination? I don’t think so but apparently the labor unions have a different opinion. Their complaint speaks of “punishable acts of racial discrimination, embezzlement and theft.”

And while the unions are looking for a solution in criminal law, I’d think that they would stand a better chance if they turned to administrative law, even though I even put their chance of success through that route at close to zero.

We all know this joke: If you do what your government does you will end up in jail. That rings true for more people than I care to think about, but when push comes to shove governments never end up behind bars. That’s just the way it is and if you want to change it, I wish you much success on that ill-fated journey.

What are we really dealing with here? The Kingdom – read: the Netherlands – is prepared to give money to the government in St. Maarten to help it through the COVID-19 disaster. That money is not free: it comes with conditions: the government has to cut the salaries of civil servants by 12.5 percent and the income of ministers and members of parliament by 25 percent. Another condition is the increase of the retirement age to 65.

While Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs publicly stated that these conditions amount to an “indecent proposal” (in the movie with that title Robert Redford offers Woody Harrelson a million dollars for one night with his wife played by Demi Moore) but Minister Plenipotentiary René Violenus confirmed to State Secretary Knops that St. Maarten accepted the proposal “unconditionally.”

Done deal. Right? All the government had to do was implement those conditions – and that’s where it ran into the protests of the labor unions.

Screaming racial discrimination is obviously not going to solve anything. The unionists do not offer any alternative: they just want to hang on to their precious salaries and fringe benefits.

That the consequence of this attitude will be that the Netherlands is not going to provide any more liquidity support – desperately needed to keep the government afloat – is apparently of no concern. With such an attitude, my friends, the unions are skating on very thin ice.

It would not surprise me one bit if Attorney General Bos decides against an investigation into the actions of State Secretary Knops, the Kingdom Council of Ministers, and St. Maarten’s Council of Ministers. Such a decision will be based on the law, not on emotions or on fear of repercussions.

That is something to keep in mind for the unions before they start screaming racial discrimination at the Attorney General.

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