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SINT MAARTEN ANTI-POVERTY PLATFORM / ST MAARTEN CONSUMERS COALITION Press Conference Thursday August 13, 2020

Topic 1. SMAPP: COM addresses Dutch government without dialogue and consensus with WICLU
Topic 2. SMCC : 75 years non-compliance of the Netherlands, what about the coming 7 years?
Topic 3. SMCC : Not only consumer rights, but also political, economic, social and cultural rights
Topic 4: SMAPP: Proposal WICLU for a MOU with COM and the political parties in Parliament
Topic 1. SMAPP: COM addresses Dutch government without dialogue and consensus with WICLU

The Council of Ministers has sent two letters to State Secretary Knops with the position of the Council of Ministers of St Maarten concerning the 218-page document with conditions for liquidity support for the third tranche. At no point in time, the council of ministers consulted or dialogued with the unions, while these conditions will affect the workers and their families!
The International Labor Organization has legislated and defined Social dialogue to include: “all types of negotiation, consultation or simply an exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy. The main goal of social dialogue is to promote consensus building and democratic involvement among the main stakeholders in the world of work. Successful social dialogue structures and processes have the potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability, and boost economic progress”.
The Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions as the most representative organization of workers in Sint Maarten requested a dialogue with the new Council of Ministers on the status of workers’ rights in letters to the Council of Ministers (COM) of March 31, 2020 and May 28, 2020. This was immediately after the January 2020 elections that a new governing coalition was formed and a new Council of Ministers was sworn in on March 28, 2020.
The COVID 19 pandemic apart from health challenges also caused an increase in workers’ rights and human rights violations. Government announced and took decisions (EOC decisions, the St Maarten Support and Relief Plan) which affected workers and their families without any consultations with the WICLU. The need for a dialogue between parties became more urgent.
Parliament of St Maarten adopted on May 19th a motion wherein was stipulated that the relevant union and labor representatives have to be consulted for government to negotiate with the Netherlands the conditions for liquidity support. Furthermore, the government had to make sure that the conditions do not go against existing international, state and national legislation. All this had to take place in the context of the finalization of the decolonization process within the Kingdom of the Netherlands towards a full measure of self-governance.
Since March 31 only two meetings between parties to dialogue were held: on June 9, 2020, and on June 25, 2020. By letter of June 12th, the WICLU informed the COM of the worker’s and human rights violations in the liquidity support conditions which the COM was busy implementing. Only after a meeting with members of parliament of St Maarten on June 24th, parties were called to continue the dialogue. No consensus was reached yet on the issues tabled by the WICLU. The Council of Ministers promised to answer the letters of March 31, May 28, and June 12 of the WICLU but these answers are still not forthcoming.
In separate meetings with the Committee of Civil Servants Unions Government as an employer from workers in the civil service discussed the implementation of a 12.5% cut in labor conditions of the workers in government. These employer-employee organizations meetings at no time should be confused with the dialogue requested by the Chamber of Labor Unions with the Council of Ministers. By the way until today no agreement has been reached yet with the civil servants' unions! Some union members supported by their unions even went to court to challenge the unlawful cut of 50% of their vacation pay which was due in the second half of June!
On July 14th, 2020 government called a meeting with stakeholders among which the Chamber of Labor Unions, to inform them about the Dutch government’s proposal of a consensus Kingdom law to establish a Caribbean Reform Entity and the position of the Council of Ministers which would be presented in the Kingdom Council of Ministers of July 15nd. Until now no dialogue was held to reach to a consensus on the Dutch proposals imposed on the governments of Curacao, Aruba and St Maarten to get COVID 19 liquidity support.
The 218 page document, after the request of Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in the Council of Ministers of the kingdom, was uploaded on the website of the second chamber. As Anti-Poverty Platform we took notice of its content and started to address its content in our former press conferences.
Since the Prime Minister returned from the Netherlands, after her intervention and interviews in the Netherlands, no dialogue has been held with the unions so that we can come to a consensus or as the prime minister likes to say: “to be on one page”.

Topic 2. SMCC: 75 years non-compliance of the Netherlands, what about the coming 7 years?

As Consumers Coalition we are very concerned with the lack of respect for our human rights as citizens of the Kingdom.
The Netherlands as member state of the United Nations, based on Chapter XI art 73 of the Charter of the United Nations , accepted for the inhabitants of the Dutch occupied Antilles and thus also for the people of Saint Martin on the southern side, to comply with the following:
a. The interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount
b. To accept as sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost the well-being of the inhabitants
c. To ensure their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses,
d. To develop self-government and provide assistance with their progressive development of their free political institutions,
e. To promote constructive measures of development.
• So if our interests were paramount during all these 75 years, why did not the Dutch government promote to the utmost our wellbeing on an equal footing as the citizens in the Netherlands?
• Why did not they ensure our political, economic, social and education advancement to achieve the same human development index as in the Netherlands and especially since they ratified 41 years ago the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights?
• How constructive were the measures of development they took the last 10 years since Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba became a special municipality of the Netherlands? The social situation is still one of poverty for the majority of the households, one of a gap between the households in the Netherlands and in the special municipalities.
And then the Dutch government wants us to believe, that in the coming 7 years a Caribbean Reform Entity occupied by three Dutch wise man, supported by Dutch civil servants, will guarantee us as consumers of their “development services”, to reach to an equal development level as the people in the Netherlands?
With the experience after three years with the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with the Dutch Trust Fund and its Steering Committee, and the National Recovery Plan Bureau, what guarantee our consumers will have that we will receive disaster help, if not even the 13 to 15 thousand structurally damaged homes by hurricane Irma have not been build back better and stronger yet?

Topic 3. SMCC: Not only consumer rights, but also political, economic, social and cultural rights!

As consumers we usually complaint about the quality of the goods and services we get for very high prices here in our society! As consumers we have the right to redress!
In the case of the faulty glucose meters, diabetic consumers have been complaining with the company Medicosmetics, with SZV, with the Inspectorate of Health, even with the Ombudsman without any success. Consumer lawyer Cor Merx was requested to address the matter and based on his intervention SZV called yesterday to inform him that new strips have arrived which shall be tested in the coming weeks.
When we analyze the service we get from the Kingdom government and from our local government with regards to the cost-cutting measures in the labor conditions of workers in the private and public sector we have to consume, as a condition for liquidity support from the Netherlands, as consumers of this “Kingdom governments service” and as consumers of the “local governments service to implement these conditions”, the question is: where we can go to demand our right to redress?
Where as consumers of the non-compliance with our human rights we have to go for redress of the “violating human rights government’s services”?
For instance public and private sector workers are affected “regressively” in their acquired economic social and cultural rights, with the 20% cut for workers in the private sector and the 12.5% cut for workers in the (semi)public sector. This is contrary to art 2 and 3 of the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention C100 which stipulates that remuneration must be based on objective job classification or evaluation. This is also in violation of art 2.1 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. Who can defend these rights?
Inequality between the remunerations of workers in the European part and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be increased. The governor, the Dutch European police and customer officers in St Maarten, and the workers in the Netherlands did not get any “solidarity” cut in their remunerations to assist the poor and the needy affected by COVID 19 in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As a consequence household income in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is further reduced, under the pretext of “solidarity” with those affected by COVID 19. This constitutes a violation of the right to an adequate standard of living in art 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and is also an act of social and racial discrimination within the Kingdom, according to art 1 and 2 of the International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Where to go for redress and to get a reversal of these measures?
WICLU held informative meetings with the members of the affiliated unions based on the cost-cutting measures government announced to get liquidity support from the Netherlands.
Manifestations were organized to protest the intentions and the decisions of the Council of Ministers to cut in labor conditions of workers in the private and in the public sector.
Still no consensus agreement has been reached between the Chamber of Labor Unions and the government!
As Consumers Coalition we are looking forward to the response of the High Commissioner on Human Rights requested in the letter from the WICLU of July 1, 2020? Independent Expert of the United Nations Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky’s letter to the States on April 15, 2020 stated and explained, that “This COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to cut salaries and benefits from the workers in general.” Will the High Commissioner ratify the position of the independent expert and suggest sanctions on the Kingdom government and the government of St Maarten?
Topic 4: Proposal WICLU for a MOU with COM and the political parties in Parliament
To get a commitment from the Council of Ministers and from the political parties in parliament that they will be respecting and defending worker’s rights and human rights, as Anti-Poverty Platform we prepared draft ingredients for a MOU for the WICLU-unions and the dialogue with the Council of Ministers.
The first point of departure is, that with the establishment of the International Labor Organization, worker’s rights were codified in international conventions and recommendations . The United Nations adopted human rights in various international public laws, which are also applicable in the Dutch Antilles and St Maarten, because the Kingdom ratified these also for St Maarten. The core human rights legislation is:
1. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948
2. The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (Kingdom of the Netherlands signed in 1966, ratified in 1979)
3. The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (Kingdom of the Netherlands signed in 1966, ratified in 1979)
In 1986 in the Declaration on the Right to Development the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed the Declaration and committed to fully realize all human rights of all citizens in the Kingdom So the politicians have to be reminded and are bound to commit to respect these workers and human rights, if not they will be denounced as workers and human rights violators!
The second point of departure is, that in 2015 the Millenium Development Goals for St Maarten were not fully achieved, and that everything should be done to realize the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. So this should be included in the MOU. Politicians have to commit to promote the development of the people of St Maarten, based on the implementation of art 73 of the Charter of the United Nations (1945) , art 43 of the Charter of the Kingdom (1954) , the Right to Development of the people of St Maarten, as described in the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and all human rights of the people of St Maarten as stipulated in Chapter 2 of the State arrangement for St Maarten .
As third point the politicians must agree, that the goal of the dialogue on the status of the worker’s rights and the human rights is to reach consensus on political, civil, economic, social and cultural policies to realize these worker’s and human rights, to promote respect for and to guarantee protection of these rights, to prevent violations of these rights and to achieve a full realization of all these rights.
Until now the politicians do not seem to understand that social dialogue between unions and employers on the one hand, and between unions and the government on the other hand is needed to achieve progress in the development of the people of St Maarten, to improve labor conditions, economic recovery and peaceful social development and to guarantee respect for worker’s rights and human rights.
Point of departure number four is the mandate from the members of all the seven unions in the WICLU represented of May 25th, that all discriminatory regressive measures have to be off the table! WICLU in their letter of June 12th demanded that these violations of worker’s rights and human rights should be annulled immediately, but not later than June 30th! This did not happen yet. No consensus has been achieved with the WICLU. In other words, a written commitment is now necessary.
As further ingredients to realize respect of the worker’s rights and human rights and liquidity support for the budget of ST Maarten without conditions, we have proposed the following:
1. the Kingdom Council of Ministers will be informed of this agreement and requested to :
a. respect the right to a full measure of self-governance of St Maarten, based on art 73 of the UN Charter
b. annul the discriminatory racial liquidity support conditions, based on art 1 and 2 of the International Convention on the eradication of all forms of Racial Discrimination!
2. The Kingdom Council of Ministers has to supplement the means to the government of St Maarten
a. so that the people of St Maarten can fully realize all their economic, social, and cultural rights on an equal footing as the people in the Netherlands, based on art 2.1 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
b. that COVID 19 financial support should be provided based on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as an aid without financial or non-financial conditions
c. That finances for the budget of St Maarten based on art 4.2 of the Accountability Ordinance and/or liquidity support should not be provided as loan nor as a zero-interest loan, but as payment of the since 1979 human deficit financial debt, the Netherlands has accumulated by not complying with art 29 of the Vienna Convention the law on all treaties and art 2.1 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
3. The Kingdom Council of Ministers will inform and approach the European Union for financial support due to COVID 19
4. With July 1st emancipation day just commemorated, the government of St Maarten has to request from the Dutch government not only a formal apology for the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism, but also truth-telling processes, and reparations in various forms to build a more solid foundation for equality, as recommended by the High Commissioner of Human Rights in her speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 17.
5. Government should request the high commissioner on human rights to assist in evaluation and recommendation on the racial discriminatory liquidity support conditions imposed by the Netherlands.
We hope that this MOU will be signed by the parties before September 1, 2020.

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