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Sint Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform / Sint Maarten Consumers Coalition.

Topic 1: June 15 deadline to revoke Cost-cutting conditions and respect worker’s rights passed.
Topic 2: Why we as Anti-Poverty Platform are supporting the demands of the unions?
Topic 3: United Unions: “We cannot breathe!” “Remove the cost-cutting knee from our neck!!”
Topic 4: Prime Minister’s protest letter to the Kingdom government
Topic 1: June 15 deadline to revoke Cost-cutting conditions and respect worker’s rights passed.


On Friday, May 15th the Kingdom Council of Ministers took the decision to impose 18 conditions on the countries of Aruba, Curacao, and St Maarten to get liquidity support from the Netherlands, which have to be implemented before July 1st, 2020.
The united unions in the Chamber of Labor unions based on a mandate of their membership on May the 25th are demanding NO CUTS IN ACQUIRED REMUNERATION BENEFITS and RESPECT FOR WORKER’S RIGHTS AND THEIR HUMAN ECONOMIC SOCIAL CULTURAL RIGHTS. On Friday, June 12th the unified unions represented in the Chamber of Labor Unions forwarded two letters to the Governor of St Maarten drs. Eugene Holiday. One letter he got in his function of head of the government of St Maarten, the other letter he got in his function as a representative of the Kingdom government. In both letters, the demand was to stop the worker’s rights and human rights violations the St Maarten Council of Ministers and the Kingdom Council of Ministers are implementing with their cost-cutting conditions imposed on the workers of Sint Maarten. The deadline mentioned in the letters was Monday, June 15th, 2020!
In the letter he got as head of the government of St Maarten, the governor was requested to do whatever was in his capacity to impress on the Council of Ministers and on Parliament of St Maarten to have a constructive dialogue with the unified unions, about the status of the worker’s rights and human rights in St Maarten.
• After two letters on March 31 and May 28 and a walk into the government administration building finally on June 9th the first meeting took place which lasted two hours. Parties agreed to start the dialogue, but the Council of Ministers did not agree yet on the objective that the dialogue with the unions must resolve the issues and to a consensus with the unions.
• After two letters on April 1 and May 29 the Parliament still has not started the requested dialogue with the unions.
In the letter, he got as representative of the Kingdom Council of ministers in St Maarten the governor and the Kingdom government were requested to stop the racially discriminatory cost-cutting conditions and to immediately respect the worker’s rights and the human rights as established in international treaties ratified by the Kingdom!
In yesterday’s Council of Minister's press briefing, we could hear the Prime Minister mention the meeting she had with the unified unions on June 9th. But she said nothing of the letter the governor has received as head of the St Maarten government, which the Council of Ministers will have to answer! She mentioned the meetings the Council of Ministers had with the civil servant's unions about the 12.5% cost-cutting measures. She did not inform the public that there is still no agreement with the civil servant unions on the vacation pay payment arrangement which is being negotiated!
Prime Minister is “misinforming” the public by saying that the unions and the Council of Ministers of St Maarten are together in the struggle against the conditions of the Kingdom government and State Secretary Knops. The truth is:
• that the Council of Ministers is still “unconditionally” implementing the conditions for liquidity support the Prime Minister herself called “indecent” proposals.
• That the civil servant unions and the united unions in the WICLU have informed the Council of Ministers of the mandate received of their members that NO CUTS in remunerations are accepted!
• Members of Individual unions are protesting and manifesting their discontent:
o WICLU unions called their members for two informative unified membership meetings on May 25th and June 8th in the Little League stadium
o SMCU-members had a meeting under working hours in the WIFOL building
o WIFOL members in some companies are speaking out publicly about the unilateral salary cuts they are receiving
o WICSU-members since Tuesday are peacefully manifesting in front of the government administration building
o ABVO-members at the airport held a walkout yesterday
o WICHUA members in the hospital start a “black shirt” wearing action today
o ABVO-SXM has invited all their members for a meeting on Friday, June 19 in the Little League stadium
• All unions are against the cost-cutting measures and the worker’s and human rights violations
Topic 2: Why the Anti-Poverty Platform is in support of the demands of the unions?
Transparency International in its 2015 report concluded that based on the Census data of 2011 75% of the households in ST Maarten with less than 4000 ANG a month were living in poverty! After Irma, this is still the case. But now because of the cost of living increase since 10-10-10, the 4000 ANG has to be indexed to 5000 ANG! In St Maarten based on the latest Labor Force Survey results of 2018 we could conclude that still, 75% of the households, which is 3 of every 4 households have to survive with less than 5000 ANG a month. This means that more than 10.000 households in St Maarten are poor and needy households!
The needs situation in the households has worsened after Irma and because of this COVID 19 pandemic: workers either lost their jobs or have to work for fewer hours and thus households have less income to survive. Imposing “solidarity” cost-cutting measures of 20% on private-sector worker families and 12.5% on public and semi-public sector worker families means “robbing” the already needy households to pay the poorer households!
The governor and through him the Council of Ministers of Sint Maarten and the Kingdom Council of Ministers in the letters of June 12th was explained that these cost-cutting measures for workers in Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten constitute an act of racial discrimination in the Kingdom. The unions asked:
• Why the workers of the Netherlands do not get a “solidarity” cut for the unemployed and underemployed workers in the Kingdom whose income is affected by the COVID 19 pandemic?
• Why the governors of the three Caribbean countries do not get a “solidarity cut”?
• Why the Dutch European police officers who came to occupy the vacancies in the ST Maarten Police Force, why these Dutch European police officers who are earning more than twice as much as their Caribbean colleagues, why they do not get “solidarity” cut?
Targeting only workers in the three ethnically and geopolitically different Caribbean countries of the Kingdom is defined as racial discrimination according to art 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ratified by the Kingdom.
The united unions made it very clear to the governor as the representative of the Kingdom government in Sint Maarten: the unions are against forced “solidarity” cuts on any worker in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Acts of solidarity should be voluntary acts!
The unions have argued also that the cost-cutting measures widen the remuneration gap between the workers in the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom and the workers in the Netherlands even more. With the example of the Dutch European police officers being remunerated more than twice as much as their Dutch Caribbean colleagues, and with the racially discriminatory cost-cutting measures only on the Caribbean workers of Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten the Kingdom of the Netherlands Council of Ministers are violating the Equal Remuneration Convention nr 100 of the ILO.
Based on which objective job classification evaluation the workers in the three Caribbean countries of the Kingdom have to cut in their already unequal remunerations?
As Anti-Poverty Platform we support the united unions in the Chamber of Labor Unions in their right full demands:
• Cost-cutting measures on the worker’s families in St Maarten impoverish these more than 10.000 households even more!
• All cost-cutting measures on worker’s remuneration must go off the table!
• Equal remuneration for the workers and all their economic social and cultural rights must be realized on an equal footing in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Topic 3: United Unions: “We cannot breathe!” “Remove the cost-cutting knee from our neck!!”

In a former program, we have questioned that this coalition government is governing without a governing program. In the meeting the united unions in the Chamber of labor unions had on June 9th with the Council of Ministers on the status of the workers in St Maarten, the Prime Minister said that this government coalition was addressing the issues brought forward by the unions in the Governing Program of this government coalition. But until today not even a draft governing program has been provided to the Chamber of Labor Unions to review and provide input!
Where the unions are championing for the full realization of all human rights on an equal footing in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, this coalition government is violating international conventions with worker’s rights and human rights.
Where the coalition members of parliament adopted a motion in Parliament which instructed the Council of ministers to negotiate COVID 19 liquidity support for St Maarten, under the condition that all measures should be respecting international, state and national legislation, this Council of Ministers not only accepted the liquidity support but also all 18 conditions “unconditionally” and is implementing the cost-cutting measures imposed by the Kingdom government!
While the President of Parliament last week Friday manifests and demands to stop racial discrimination and respect for human rights, on a public manifestation to commemorate racial police brutality, while he appeared yesterday at a walkout of workers at PJIAE and promised to address their concerns until today he has not answered nor organized any dialogue yet of Parliament requested by the united unions in the Chamber of Labor Unions.
While the governing coalition is implementing a discriminatory payroll support program to favor some employers under the pretext that they will pay the workers 100% salary, the President of Parliament is deaf or did not hear workers complaining that they have not received their full salary since March! We did not hear him about the “racial discrimination” imposed by the Kingdom Council of Ministers and implemented by the governing coalition, nor is he defending the worker’s rights and human rights trampled by the Kingdom Council of ministers and the Council of Ministers he supports!
While the UP party leader Rolando Brison showed us that in the UP party manifesto they want to eradicate poverty, and they will sign the Declaration on Eradication of Poverty presented by the Anti-Poverty Platform, until today the UP-party did not sign!
Union members are screaming that the cost-cutting measures will affect their household income and impoverish them more! This governing coalition continues to press the knee in the neck of the St Maarten workers! No word of MP Rolando Brison!
Union members and their leaders are screaming: “We cannot breathe”. No word of the other MP’s who have to represent us and defend our human rights! No word of MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten who wants the local heavy equipment contractors to get contracts at the airport construction, but until now no support for the poor and needy worker families to maintain their remuneration.
While MP Heyliger-Marten has to be commended for her crusade to get our right to a full measure of self-governance respected and realized, we do not hear the MP speaking out against the violations of the Kingdom Council of Ministers liquidity support conditions and the implementation by the governing coalition of these cost-cutting violations of the economic social and cultural rights of the workers of St Maarten. While she presented her first motion in parliament which got adopted by 12 MPs she is referring to as the 12 apostles, none of the apostles is holding the Council of Ministers accountable for accepting the conditions of the liquidity support which are in violation of international, state and national legislation!
The United Unions in the Chamber of Labor Unions are determined to protest “the knee in the neck” of the workers and their families of this NA-UP governing coalition government; “We cannot breathe!” ; “We cannot breathe!” ; “We cannot breathe!” ; “We cannot breathe!” ; “We cannot breathe!”!

Topic 4: Prime Minister’s protest letter to the Kingdom government
In yesterday’s press briefing of the Council of Ministers and in a press release released on Wednesday, the cabinet of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister said that State Secretary Knops behaved in an unbecoming manner in a meeting they had with the State Secretary on the conditions for further liquidity support. She stated, “As kingdom partners, we should treat each other with mutual respect, and that certainly did not happen during the meeting.”
According to Prime Minister Jacobs, the information submitted on the agenda items was immediately disregarded by State Secretary Knops. Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “It was simply rejected as irrelevant to the discussion or falsehoods in general. While we have communicated our positions and findings openly, honestly, and in a transparent way.
The tone of State Secretary Knops was described to be quite unpleasant during the meeting and State Secretary Knops even ended the virtual meeting prematurely and rather abruptly. Prime Minister Jacobs further stated, “From the beginning, the convening notices for the meetings have not been decent. We received the agenda items too late and without underlying documents or further explanation, even after repeated requests.”
Prime Minister Jacobs has sent a letter concerning these challenges to Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hopes that Prime Minister Rutte will investigate the matter. “I remain ready to continue the conversations with an equal mediator who is open to discussion in a decent manner and who shows respect in the event of disagreements,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.
Even though we can sympathize with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance if this behavior of the State Secretary was disrespectful. But rather than lamenting the attitude and the manners of the State Secretary, we want the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers to write to the Kingdom Council of ministers to respect our human rights and the worker’s rights of the people of St. Maarten!
Gross neglect and disrespect for our worker’s rights and our human rights the unions have denounced. Disrespect of the CFT, the State Secretary Knops and of the Kingdom government on the one hand with the racially discriminatory liquidity conditions imposed on the three Caribbean countries in the Kingdom for COVID 19 pandemic disaster support, but also on the other hand disrespect for our worker’s rights and human rights violated by the cost-cutting measures Prime Minister Jacobs and the Council of Ministers is implementing and trying to sell to the general public!
Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, if you really want to be together with the unions against the “indecent” colonial Dutch government in this struggle for respect of human rights and worker’s rights,
• than you have to reverse the cost-cutting measures NOW!
• than you have to dialogue with the united unions NOW on how to improve the status of the worker’s rights and human rights in ST Maarten
• than you have to address the Kingdom Council of minister NOW by pointing them to the international legislation, State legislation and national legislation which they are violating with all their cost-cutting measures and request them to respect these rights by withdrawing their racially discriminatory cost cutting conditions!

 

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