PHILIPSBURG–The unions representing workers in the justice chain and the umbrella body for unions plan to give Justice Minister Rafael Boasman specific deadlines within which some of their grievances should be handled.
Amongst the issues that the unions will be issuing deadlines for are: the finalisation of the Function Book, adding the 16.3 per cent Windward Islands allowance to the salaries of police and Coast Guard personnel, and addressing grievances related to the recruitment policy that is used to hire personnel for the Police Force from abroad. The deadlines have not been issued as yet.
The unions made a decision to give the Minister deadlines after meeting with their members from the Police Force, Immigration, Prison and Customs on Thursday, to update them on the meeting the unions had with the minister on June 14. At Thursday’s meeting, the membership expressed their frustration with the inaction from authorities to their grievances, and were fed up of hearing talk and promises and seeing no action, union representatives told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
At the press conference were: Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) board member Belinda Bryson, ABVO St. Maarten official Sharlon Cathalina, WICSU/PSU President Julia Solognier, Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Union (WICLU) President Claire Elshot (who is also president of the Windward Islands Teachers Union), ABVO Advisor Lyndon Lewis Jr. and NAPB representative Janice Philips.
Solognier said the unions felt as though they had made some strides during the meeting with the Minister; however, things have not changed since the meeting and promises made have not been fulfilled. She said the minister promised that a task force would be addressing the concerns with the Function Book and that the Task Force would be sending the Function Book to the Ministry of General Affairs so that it can go through the process it needs to go through. This never happened and the unions had to request for the Function Book to be sent to the ministry during a meeting with the advisory body for matters related to civil servants GOA last week Friday, and only then was it officially sent to the ministry.
She said also that no progress has been seen as it relates to the 16.3 per cent allowance for Police and Coast Guard personnel, whom she said are the only government workers who have not yet received the allowance.
The unions and workers also had some concerns regarding the hiring of personnel for the police force saying it is not in accordance with existing policies.
ABVO St. Maarten Advisor Lyndon Lewis Jr. said he understood that 10 officers were being recruited from Suriname and 10 from St. Maarten. The recruitment of Surinamese officers, he said is not according to regulations since one of the first regulations to become an officer is that the candidate must possess the Dutch nationality. He said also that there are sufficient persons from St. Maarten who can be recruited for the force. Additionally, he said some officers were sent home on paid leave of absence.
Solognier said matters are taking too long to be acted upon and the unions will therefore give the minister deadlines. She said also that the unions requested to meet with the minister this week to no avail. Although it had been agreed that the minister and unions will meet regularly, Solognier said the unions cannot wait until the next scheduled meeting as there are urgent matters to be addressed, hence the request for the urgent meeting this week.
Asked whether the unions are gearing up for industrial action, Elshot said nothing can be ruled out at this point. She said members are concerned and they feel as though they are not being treated fairly. They are no longer interested in hearing that things are being worked on. “They want resolutions and they want matters resolved,” Elshot said
Philips said all hands need to be on deck, including parliament and ministers, to address the concerns that exist.