Judge reaffirms: Actions cannot hinder general police operations | THE DAILY HERALD

Police officers gathered outside the Courthouse on Friday, June 25.


PHILIPSBURG–In confirming its intermediate decision of June 25, the Court of First Instance on Tuesday banned police union NAPB and civil servants’ union ABVO from organising or attending meetings, work stoppages, parades and public demonstrations, if these hamper justice operations.

  With the support of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson filed an injunction on June 24 requesting that justice workers be instructed to discontinue their demonstrations and allow discussions about their grievances to take place around the table. She claimed that justice workers’ protest actions were in violation of the law and national security. She also feared that the police actions would damage the economy and would put “a spoke in the wheel” where homeporting was concerned.


  The unions claimed that they were within their rights to take industrial action. They denied that any justice worker was on strike and said that police officers, prison officials and officials at the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBPS) were only on a “go-slow,” which was not to hamper any operations.

  The justice workers have a number of grievances, including their transition as civil servants of the former Netherlands Antilles and the transition of police officers to the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBPS).

  Other complaints concern the cost-of-living adjustment (“Bovenwindentoeslag”); violation of the rules about the promotion of officers; violation of the right to collective negotiations between the unions and the government; violation of the Equal Remuneration Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO); violation of the national ordinance by paying only three per cent vacation allowance 2019/2020; and the declaration by the Minister of Finance not to pay the six per cent vacation allowance 2020/2021, which was due in June.

  By letter of June 22 to Parliament, the NAPB informed that “if by the end of this month there is no agreement with the NAPB on the elimination of these violations of the … right of workers in the justice system, the NAPB union has no other recourse than to support its membership to exercise their right to organise industrial action.”

  In the injunction, the unions called on government to retract statements that the security of the police and prison was endangered. The court was also requested to oblige the government to enter into consultations with the trade unions about the existing grievances, including the function books, or face daily penalties of NAf. 100,000.

  According to government, the unions’ actions had endangered public safety and basic police work. Members of the unions and NAPB president Rogerrel Mauricia were said to have “raided” the police guard and forced the control room to only accept reports in life-threatening situations.

  Also, unionists allegedly disturbed a meeting of Parliament and forced Immigration workers at the airport and prison workers to join their protests. The Head of Immigration would have had to single-handedly check out departing tourists at passport control because his employees were campaigning, government claimed.

  The unions denied these allegations and found the judge on their side, as he arrived at the conclusion that government had failed to prove that the go-slow had posed a danger to public order and national security. The government had also failed to prove that vulnerable persons were a risk, he stated.


 According to the Supreme Court, the trade unions in principle have the right to take collective action if this can reasonably contribute to the right to collective bargaining.

  However, the judge found that the unions had insufficiently specified their grievances. At the hearing, Mauricia explained to the court that the actions were more due to a feeling of “despair and frustration.”

  In the verdict, the judge stated that he understood these feelings. The chronically understaffed police have been confronted with a reduction of 12.5 per cent on the government budget, which resulted in vacation allowances not being paid. These cuts are without any legal basis because legislation to this effect has not yet come into force.

  The “slowdown” actions seem motivated by these frustrations, rather than that they are intended to reinforce concrete negotiations, the judge said. That is why the slowdown actions do not meet the Supreme Court’s conditions.

  However, the judge emphatically stated that government apparently has no objection to slowdowns and other actions, as long as these do not hinder police work. That is why the judge rejected government’s other claims, as there is no indication that union members have harassed tourists or are planning to do so.

  No penalties were imposed, as the court trusted the unions’ statements during the hearing that basic police work will always be provided in St. Maarten and because government had failed to prove that police operations had been in danger.

  As parties had met on June 26 to discuss the function books and because both unions had been admitted to the Committee of Civil Servants Unions (CCSU), the judge found there was “movement” in the communication between government and the unions. Therefore, the judge saw no reason for a conviction at this point.

  Claims that Mauricia had acted unlawfully against government were rejected. “To personally involve a trade unionist in legal proceedings does not fit into the good relations government should strive for in its role as employer in negotiations with trade unions.” It is inappropriate to “play on the person” in this way, the judge stated in his preliminary judgment.

  Government was ordered to pay Mauricia’s legal costs, which were estimated at NAf. 1,000. Otherwise, the parties must bear the costs at their own expense.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/judge-reaffirms-actions-cannot-hinder-general-police-operations