Union representatives during the meeting.
PHILIPSBURG–The counter-proposal presented to government by unions on Thursday hints of “demands” as opposed to “suggestions”, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion said in a press statement last night.
The unions’ counter-proposal for cost-cutting measures “will be thoroughly reviewed this week,” he said, noting that “a brief perusal of the document hints that there might be demands as oppose to suggestions.”
“For example, the proposal is requesting government to initiate implementation of an economic stimulus plan by July 1, 2020, and increase the fees for directors’ licences from NAf. 500 to NAf. 1,000. … Things are tough right now and the conditions set by the Netherlands are undesirable given our vulnerable position after Hurricane Irma, but we will do what we must to take care of all of our people. We have to find a way together because we are in this together.”
He said civil servants and teachers had also proposed “reasonable alternatives” that “are seriously being looked into”, such as accepting the 50 per cent cut in vacation pay for years 2020 and 2021 and being reimbursed in the year 2022 by 200 per cent. Irion said he is confident of being able to come to a consensus by continued dialogue with the stakeholders involved.
The unions and government have been meeting regularly to discuss how to best move forward with necessary cuts. Government’s last proposal was delivered to unions on Monday, May 25, which entailed a vacation pay cut of 50 per cent for 2020 and 2021, leaving salaries untouched. Other cuts such as uniform, travel cost and overtime for those who are not front-line workers will account for the remainder of the cuts needed to fulfil the condition of 12.5 per cent cut of overall personnel cost.
Irion said he appreciated the phone calls, emails, and direct conversations with civil servants and teachers on the matter, noting that these have given him more insight and motivation to find solutions that have “the least impact on the people during an already trying time.”