CAY HILL–St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) workers will be taking home a slightly higher salary and will receive a bit more in their Christmas bonus thanks to a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) signed between the hospital and their union on Thursday.
The CLA went into effect on July 1. The CLA was signed by Windward Islands Health Care Union Association (WIHCUA) representatives and St. Maarten Medical Center Manager of Patient Care Antonio Pantophlet and Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday in the presence of hospital staffers. SMMC General Director Kees Klarenbeek, who is off island and was not present, had signed the CLA before and also sent an electronic message which was played for workers during the ceremony.
Numerous benefits were secured for workers in the CLA including slight increases in salary and Christmas bonus. Additionally, SMMC and the union have agreed to increase the maternity leave for workers from 12 to 14 weeks in the CLA. Changes were also made to the company’s Dental Vision Benefit Plan, which now allows family members of SMMC staffers to benefit from the Plan.
WIHCUA President Brunilda Illidge, who expressed satisfaction with the benefits that had been secured for the workers, said her smile was missing because Klarenbeek, who was instrumental in the negotiations, was absent. Looking back on CLA negotiating that she had been involved in over the years, Illidge said the talks with Klarenbeek to reach the CLA was a significant improvement. In the past, CLA discussions were extremely heated and would result in slamming of doors, pounding of fists on the table and throwing down of chairs. However, the negotiations with Klarenbeek were conducted with mutual respect and while they were not easy, they were peaceful.
She lauded Klarenbeek for this. “We met each other halfway and we understood that we cannot plunder SMMC, but we cannot leave the staff with nothing,” she said. “I am proud of Kees as a Dutchman, that he could have sat across the table and balance it out. We hope that God will follow through and lay his healing power and run through Kees’ body and bring him back,” she said, resulting in applause from the staff who had gathered to witness the ceremony. “We have a balanced out CLA and we are thankful for that.”
SMMC Human Resource Manager Sheila Hodge said parties began negotiations for the new CLA a year ago, unlike in the past when the negotiations were held for about three to four weeks and had been heated. Holding the negotiations a year in advance was to give parties sufficient time to meet every two weeks to iron out details of the agreement. “By taking a full year, we were able to go into detailed talks and the final package depended on what SMMC can afford and what is best for the staff,” Hodge said.
Holiday, who assumed the post of Medical Director as of June 1, said while he was not involved in the negotiations, reading through the document he realises that the CLA is “quite an accomplishment,” and an improvement for staff. He said also that parties took into consideration the family members of staffers as they will also benefit from the CLA. The agreement, he added, forms the basis for parties to provide care together and to ensure that quality care is available for the community.
Representative of SMMC Supervisory Council Robert-Jan James described the CLA as a major accomplishment for everyone. He said Klarenbeek had put “a lot of effort,” into the process. James said while talks can be tough, at the end parties were able to reach an agreement that “everyone can be happy with.”
WIHCUA representative Christina Jacobs-Berkel urged workers to read the CLA. A copy will be made available online and will be available to staffers on a shared platform. It will also be provided to workers in hard copy. The CLA which is officially in Dutch will also be translated so that workers, who are not proficient in the Dutch language can also get a copy that they can understand.
The negotiating team from WIHCUA comprised Illidge, Jacqueline Berkel, Rein Torrenga, Charline Arrendell, Marguerite Priest and Jacobs-Berkel. The negotiation team from SMMC comprised Manager of Patient Care Tony Pantophlet, Hodge, Klarenbeek and SMMC Finance Manager Davinia Carbière.