PHILIPSBURG–The unions representing justice workers in St. Maarten issued a joint statement on Sunday in which they reacted to comments made by Finance Minister Ardwell Irion in Parliament last week regarding the remainder of the retroactive payments for justice workers.
Irion had said during the Parliament meeting, which was about the National Ordinance amending the authorisation of the National Ordinance for the disposal of United Telecommunications Services (UTS) shares, that the remaining funds that St. Maarten will receive from the sale of the country’s 12.5 per cent share in UTS will be used to reimburse the treasury for the monies paid in January to justice workers as part of their back pay.
He said also that to be able to pay the justice workers the remainder of their back pay “the Function Book and rest of the law need to be in order.”
In their press release, the NAPB police union, Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) and ABVO St. Maarten union said they wanted to “clarify” what had been agreed on in relation to the funds from the UTS sale being used to cover part of the monies owed to justice workers.
“The unions stayed quiet for a while. This was … to give the government of St. Maarten time to work [out – Ed.] what by now should be in the final stages [for our] members – which is placing them into the new organisation KPSM and adjusting their salary scale,” the joint statement read.
According to the unions, it had been agreed and signed in a national decree on December 31, 2019, that NAf. 4 million from the UTS sale would be used to cover part of the retroactive payment for the workers in the Police Force of St. Maarten until the “official amount” had been tallied.
“The amount owed to the justice workers exceeds NAf. 4 million, but in an effort to start the reimbursement process, the sum of NAf. 4 million was [agreed to] by all parties pending the completion of the Function Book and the laws to be set in place. This amount was without any stipulations of completion of the Function Book and the laws to be set in place. Once all workers are placed in their rightful functions, the actual amount owed has to be re-calculated,” the statement read.
According to the unions, Irion had said in a meeting of Parliament that the outstanding balance could have been taken out of government’s coffers as there were sufficient funds available for this.
“Based on this, an amending law was drafted and signed by the honourable Minister of Justice Egbert Doran and the respective parties. This means that the outstanding balance [could have been] paid out to the justice workers. When government receives the remaining funds from the UTS sale, the above-mentioned amount [was to have been] replaced in government’s general coffers.”
“Justice workers have received only a portion (NAf. 1.9 million) of the back pay from the UTS sale agreement, which was paid … starting January 10, 2020, the day after election. This amount is part of the actual back pay funds owed to the justice workers.
“The unions applaud the willingness of Mr. Ardwell Irion to assist and comply with the amended draft law,” the unions said.
The unions said the justice workers had received only half of the amount agreed to. The unions requested a meeting with the Ministry of Justice for information on the placement of workers in the new organisation, but said they are still to receive a response from the ministry.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/unions-react-to-statements-about-remainder-of-back-pay