Hundreds filled the Little League Stadium on Monday to hear from their union leaders.
~ Union leaders present mandates to members ~
PHILIPSBURG–Hundreds of union members came out in solidarity to hear from their respective leaders on the measures imposed by government and the stance of the unions when it comes to these measures.
Members of seven unions filled the bleachers of the Little League Ball Park in Philipsburg. In an effort to maintain social distancing many persons stayed on the side-lines and in the parking lot to listen to the urgent meeting.
Leaders and representatives of ABVO St. Maarten, St. Maarten police union NAPB, Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU), Windward Islands Civil Servants’ Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU), Windward Islands Federation of Labor (WIFOL), St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU), and Windward Islands Health Care Union and Associates (WIHCUA) were all present.
The meeting was hosted by union member Marylouse Rattan-Poulo.
WICLU leader Claire Elshot started the meeting by stating the four initial cost-cutting measures proposed by government on May 7. She said the unions had further received on May 13, in written form, these measures plus an additional set of measures that were not included in the first meeting. This was later followed by a counter-proposal they presented to government that would cut operational cost instead of personnel cost.
She said, “As unions we did not feel comfortable with any measures that would discriminate one person against the next. So, for us as unions, it was no cost-cutting measures against our members.”
WICSU/PSU president Deborah Rombley said the government has not been forthcoming with information when it concerns the cost-cutting measures proposed for civil servants.
“Government has also neglected to inform us, as unions, that the measures would intentionally influence government-owned companies as subsidised companies. So, in essence it is not a civil servant matter, it is bigger than that. We should not have to pay for mismanagement and bad spending of government,” she said.
Rombley said that when the government cuts the salary of a civil servants it is known that “they will never put it back”.
“Unlike the private sector; after the pandemic you have to give them back their pay cut,” she added.
She encouraged all members present to let all union leaders know what they, as members, would want their leaders to do.
WIFOL President Theophilus Thompson said, “All we need is solidarity. Stand behind your union, stand behind your leaders. We are together.”
He stressed that the unions will not accept the conditions set forth by the government and, if necessary, will go to court to champion for the rights of members. “No” to the cut, he rallied.
He further encouraged those in attendance who were not signed up as members to do so. Forms for this were made available to those persons interested.
SMCU president Ludson Evers told members that the only way government could impose the cost-cut measures was if all union members agreed. “This is a clear sign that we need to come together,” he said.
WICSU/PSU Secretary Rignald “Bakari” Arrindell said in his address to the crowd that government had not shown any decency to respond to the unions in written form in regard to the counter-proposal that was submitted. “All of the conditions that would directly impact civil servants, they want to fast-check it. Those conditions that would touch them, they want to review. By fast-checking, it lets you know that we’re all in this together,” he said.
Arrindell reminded all those in attendance that there have been no cost of living allowance and no indexation, but prices are constantly rising in St. Maarten.
He brought to attention the many departments represented in the meeting such as the teachers and ambulance that were faced with long hours, inadequate working conditions, understaffed departments and much more, that are now being faced with a reduction in salaries. He maintained that enough was enough.
Arrindell, in following with the speakers before him, encouraged persons present who have not officially signed up with their respective union to do so during the meeting.
In closing the meeting, Elshot presented the members, on behalf of the unions, three mandates.
The first mandate listed: all cuts in our benefits are off the table, no cuts in our acquired benefits (salary, allowances, etc.), respect for progressive, economic, social and cultural rights, and that all workers are equal to human rights.
The second mandate included demands to the St. Maarten government, demands to the Kingdom Council of Ministers, and demands to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
Copies of this mandate were sent to the Governor of St. Maarten, the Councils of Ministers in Aruba and Curaçao, the Members of Parliament in Aruba and Curaçao, the labour unions in Aruba and Curaçao, all Dutch unions, all regional unions, and all international labour federations,
Third mandate listed stopping racial discrimination and apartheid in the Kingdom; unity in action with all labour unions in St. Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao; getting solidarity actions from labour unions in the Netherlands; getting solidarity from labour unions in the region; informing the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva; and informing the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regional office in Trinidad.
The unions received a unanimous “yes” from members to all actions listed in the mandates presented to them. All members sounded in solidarity with a resounding “no” to all cuts proposed.
Leaders and representatives of the unions are expected to attend a meeting with government this coming Thursday.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/hundreds-turn-out-to-union-assembly