SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Late Friday afternoon into evening, May 22, 2020, the Council of Ministers (COM) met with the unified unions of St. Maarten in order to clarify the proposal made by the Dutch Government and approved by the Kingdom Council on May 15, 2020, related to the much-publicized 12.5% personnel cost-cutting condition and other conditions within the Dutch COVID-19 support proposal which will negatively affect civil servants.
The unions represented workers in the private and public sectors namely, WITU, WICSU-PSU, ABVO-SXM, NAPB. The meeting was chaired by the CCSU. This as a result of union representatives seeking an audience earlier in the day with Prime Minister Jacobs, Finance Minister Irion, and Labour Minister Panneflek.
Prime Minister Jacobs provided an update on the events leading up to the proposal, while Minister Irion explained St. Maarten’s financial situation, exposing the need for the government to make budget cuts. The government had attempted to do such a few weeks before, however, it was clear from the response that the unions were vehemently against it. While this is definitely a last resort, and one not taken lightly by the government of St. Maarten, it was necessary to secure funding for our SSRP.
“The SSRP provides temporary financial support for three months including April, May, and June 2020, for the un- and underemployed due to COVID-19. The plan provides payroll support for businesses and support for entrepreneurs. The unemployed created and commenced this week out of government coffers. The harsh reality is that it would be unlikely to fulfill the obligations to the SSRP without taking the loan proposed by the Netherlands.” stated Minister Irion.
It was agreed after much deliberation that the government would provide the Unions with a written overview of the conditions as provided by the Dutch in writing over the weekend. Furthermore, Finance Minister Irion would prepare a revised proposal taking the current situation at hand, while Prime Minister Jacobs would ensure that the Unions would also be updated on the Pension Reform law and any other aspect of the loan proposal which had an impact on civil servants.
The government will continue to meet with all stakeholders in the coming days and weeks, including its employees, as well as government-owned companies, ZBOs and other subsidized entities to inform, dialogue and involve them in the planning moving forward as they strive to get financial assistance to the most vulnerable. “Government is seeking understanding and a sense of community from all the stakeholders mentioned to join forces with us to assist the most vulnerable in our society,“ stated Prime Minister Jacobs in an invited comment.