Unions urge Boasman to ‘stop injustice’ of workers

~ Boasman to discuss grievances next week ~

PHILIPSBURG–The Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU) and the various unions representing workers in the disciplined services have accused Justice Minister Rafael Boasman of fostering injustice toward workers in the ministry and are urging him to stop this practice and to resolve the issues affecting staffers.

Boasman said in an invited comment that he is always ready and willing to meet with the unions and has done so on numerous occasions. He said he will have his office arrange a meeting with unions next week to discuss their grievances.

The unions – Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU), NAPB St. Maarten, ABVO St. Maarten – and WICLU, the umbrella body for unions, detailed their frustrations with Boasman at a joint press conference held at the WICSU/PSU office on Thursday.

At the top of the unions’ concerns is what they say is the apparent selective use of the “Function Book,” which regulates the legal position of police and Immigration officers and addresses issues such as salary scales, functions, positions, retroactive payment, etc.

The unions said that while they had “worked hard” for several months last year to iron out the details and had completed the Function Book, which covers the more-than-500 workers in the Justice sector, Boasman is claiming that the Function Book is not yet approved, yet it is being applied in certain situations.

While the unions are being told it is not approved and cannot be used to regulate the status of local workers, it is being used as basis for the employment of “foreign” workers who are brought in to work under the Justice Ministry, the unions say.

The unions believe that if the Function Book can be used for one worker, it should be used for all.

“If they can bring in persons from outside and put them in the correct legal positions, then they can also do this for the local workers,” WICLU President Claire Elshot said. She said also that not applying the Function Book would eventually affect persons who are going on pension, as they would not be in their correct salary scales and would therefore not receive the correct pension to which they are entitled.

WICSU/PSU President Julia Solognier said it appears as though the Function Book is stuck somewhere, because after it was completed it was supposed to have been sent to the GOA, an advisory body to Government on matters related to civil servants, and to the Advisory Council, but this was not done.

“For some reason it has been held up,” Solognier said. “When the new minister was sworn in we gave him a copy [of the Function Book – Ed.].”

The unions also say they were told that the Function Book for the prison, which was completed in 2014, cannot be found.

The unions are also concerned that authorities are hiring persons from abroad to fill positions that can be filled with competent local persons. ABVO advisor Lyndon Lewis Jr. said there are many officers who are currently not working, some of whom are at home and who are competent to fill available positions.

“The minister is looking for help outside. They should bring back people [who are already here – Ed.] because they are qualified,” ABVO St. Maarten official Sharlon Cathalina noted.

The unions also claim they are being left out of certain things when it comes to issues such as the formation of task forces by the Minister. The unions say they should be represented on certain task forces because they are representatives of the workers, but they are being left out. They see this as a sign of “disrespect” from Boasman and urge him to make them partners as they rightfully are.

“This minister has to respect social dialogue with the unions. It is not good that the Justice Minister has so many court cases. The unions are now demanding that solutions be found for the issues at hand,” Elshot said. “He [the Minister also – Ed.] formed a petit committee that no one knows about. The Minister should not continue to play games with the rights of workers.”

The unions are also concerned about the sudden closure of the police substation in Simpson Bay for more than a year and the lack of information as to why it was closed. The unions say the substation served an important purpose in servicing the districts in that part of the country.

The unions also say Boasman is making it appear, during the weekly Council of Ministers press briefings, as though nothing had been in place when he entered office and he has to start from scratch. However, they say things have been in place such as the finalisation of the Function Book for Immigration and police and Boasman just has to ensure that there is continuity and continue from where the last Minister left off.

Solognier said the unions’ concerns have been falling on deaf ears over the past months, as their correspondences are not being responded to and they have been unable to meet with Boasman, but are being told that he is busy planning for a conference that they say never materialised. Their last meeting with him was in March.

“They are using this conference as an escape route,” Elshot said. She said she has sent a letter to Boasman in her capacity as WICLU President, urging him to address the unions concerns and to find solutions post’-haste. She did not issue an ultimatum, but expects the minister to give the matter priority.

“By the time the next press briefing comes around we want the Minister to have met with the unions,” Elshot said. “Stop playing games and stop the injustice with the social benefits of the workers. … Cut the injustice and (let) justice (prevail) and ensure that the rights of workers are adhered to.”

Asked what steps the unions plan to take if their concerns are not addressed, she said the unions would regroup and determine their next plan of action.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/66693-unions-urge-boasman-to-stop-injustice-of-workers