Lawyers end their strike for better pay


PHILIPSBURG–The on-call criminal lawyers who were on strike since September 7 to obtain timely payment for their government services and an increase of fees which have not been indexed since 1993, have terminated their action on Thursday.

Spokesman for the strikers and Chairman of the St. Maarten Bar Association’s Criminal Law Division Cor Merx said in a statement on Thursday morning that the strikers’ demands were being met and that the strike would be terminated as per immediate.

The strike was an initiative of attorney-at-law Geert Hatzmann. For a month on-call lawyers laid down their work and did not assist clients assigned to them by government. Some 10 lawyers laid down their work. Their action had the full support of St. Maarten Bar Association.

In a show of solidarity, 18 lawyers marched to the Ministry of Justice, and to the new Government Administration Building on Pond Island when it was opened on September 23.

After the opening ceremony, a delegation of the striking lawyers, comprising Shaira Bommel, Sjamira Roseburg, Dagmar Daal, Hatzmann, and Merx, met with Prime Minister William Marlin and Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo.

During this meeting, Minister Kirindongo said he had submitted a proposal to the Council of Ministers to supplement the budget of the Ministry of Justice with surpluses from the other ministries’ budgets, not only to finance the backlog in payments, but also to index the lawyers’ fees.

Merx said Thursday that he had understood that every lawyer with receivables had “more or less” been paid out. “Those who have not been paid in full have indicated the amounts received were substantial. That is reassuring. I have also learned that the indexation of tariffs is already being applied to the claims over the month of August.”

Although the agreement was still “very fragile,” Merx said it would be “reasonable” to call off the walkout at this point. He thanked the legal partners in the Prosecutor’s Office, the Joint Court of Justice and the Police for their support and loyalty, and specifically mentioned Joint Court Vice President Katja Mans and Bar Association’s Dean Aernout Kraaijeveld.

The criminal lawyers, in the meantime, remain sympathetic with the deficits in the Prosecutor’s Office’s budget, their spokesperson said. “We also called for attention to that. Professionally we are not always in agreement with each other but when the need is greatest, one gets to know his friends,” Merx stated.

Source: The Daily Herald