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

Topic 1: SMCC - Seniors citizens once more without timely payment of their old age pensions.

Topic 2: SMCC - Seniors receiving cut in AOV pension from former Netherlands Antilles entitled to refund!

Topic 3: SMAPP - Minister of Justice continues disrespecting workers’ rights of NAPB members in Justice!

Topic 4. SMAPP - CCSU members did not approve changes in function books proposed by the Minister of Justice

Topic 5: SMCC - Occupational Health and Safety Issues at Police Station Philipsburg still unresolved

 

Topic 1: Seniors citizens once more without timely payment of their old age pensions.

               It was in January of this year that as co-coordinator of the anti-poverty platform representing the seniors and pensioners in the platform we denounced the fact, that since the old age pension maximum was increased as per July 1, 2020, the seniors did not get their pension increase.

Only after our cry out on behalf of the seniors SZV came out with an announcement that depending on the bank of the pensioner, payments could be expected as soon as the last week in January. As reason for the delay in processing of the pension increase, SZV said that this was due to the switch to the new pension registration system of SZV. The retroactive payment will consist of the difference between the old pension amount and the new pension amount as per July 1st, 2020. This is for the months of July 2020 – December 2020, the Christmas Bonus of December 2020, and January 2021.

We are now at the beginning of March 2021.

Since last week Friday seniors started to complain at the local radio stations, that as was customary they went to the bank to collect their pension money two working days before month-end. Their pension money was not yet on their account. This week on Monday, March 1st seniors went to the bank and still did not have their pension money in their bank account! The security officers at the bank were sending seniors back with the message that SZV had not yet provided the money transfers.

I am not a representative from SZV, neither am I the public relations officer at SZV. But many seniors called me to find out what happened? Why they could not collect their pension money? They complained that they spent their last dollars to reach the bank, only to find out that their little pension money was still not deposited on their bank account! Whereas all workers from SZV already had received their salary according to the law two working days before month end!

Late Monday afternoon SZV sent out an announcement that the payroll since March 1 is being processed on the first of the month. The payment of the old-age pension AOV and the widow and orphan pensions this month had encountered a delay. What was the reason for the delay this time? In their Notice about March AOV and AWW Pension Payment SZV said and we quote: “SZV would like to inform all AOV and AWW pension recipients that the monthly pension payments are now processed on the 1st of each month. For the pension month of March, we have encountered a delay in processing, with the result that the payout state will be as of March 2nd, 2021. Depending on the bank of the pensioner, payments can be expected as of Tuesday, March 2nd in the afternoon or on Wednesday, March 3rd. We recognize this as inconvenient to our pension recipient and would like to sincerely apologize for the delay.”

Why SZV did not announce this change in the processing date before? Why seniors who were accustomed to receiving their money a few days before the 1st of the month, why SZV did not announce before that the processing of the pension payroll was not done anymore much earlier, but that it now was done on the first of the month? This could have saved the senior time and money to go to the bank in vain.

We hereby publicly demand from SZV to pay all the pension recipients a late payment fee, just as GEBE and TELEM charge us a late payment fee of 25 ANG when we pay our bill after the due date passed. At least monetary compensation is more rewarding than the apology offered!

Topic 2: Seniors receiving cut in AOV pension from former Netherlands Antilles entitled to refund!

On Monday, March 1, 2021, in a press release of the Joint Court of Justice as co-coordinator of the anti-poverty platform and board member of the seniors and pensioners association, we were informed that the Joint Court of Justice has ruled in the appeal of a test case filed by a group of 60 seniors citizens receiving a pension of the former Netherlands Antilles. The seniors since 2017 started a court case against the 10% cut on the old-age pension of seniors and the scrapping of their annual Christmas bonus legislated by the government and the parliament of Curacao because Curacao claimed that they were not residents of Curacao! The same goes for seniors who lived in the Netherlands Antilles when the country was dissolved on October 10, 2010. Also, those who lived within the former Netherlands Antilles when the changes were announced in the AOV legislation of Curacao on July 29, 2016, and those still living in one of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles!

According to the court making, a difference between residents and non-residents is a violation of the prohibition of discrimination. The government and the parliament of Curacao who introduced this discriminatory cut in the old-age pension benefit of all those recipients of an old-age pension from the Netherlands Antilles should not treat the recipients differently because they are no residents from Curacao! The court said there is no good reason for people who lived or still reside in St Maarten, Bonaire, St Eustatius, and Saba to be treated differently than people who lived in Curacao. “After all they were all residents of the Netherlands Antilles and reside within the territory of the Netherlands Antilles. They did not choose to change their country of residence”, the Joint court said.

This is a violation of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Once more we can conclude how important it is that for politicians and high-ranking civil servants to be educated in human rights. Instead of respecting human rights they propose and cooperate with the passing of discriminatory legislation!

Topic 3. Minister of Justice continues disrespecting workers’ rights of NAPB members in Justice!

Minister of Justice the honorable MS Anna Richardson on Monday, March 1, 2021, hosted a “Welcome Home” party for the “the Border Protection and Mobile Control Units” which she called the “missing links within the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBP) Department”. So when the Border Protection and Mobile Control Units went missing? When they got lost? When did the “Lost and Found Department of the Minister” found the lost Border Protection and Mobile Control Units? Where Minister Ana Richardson found them? How come they went missing?

NAPB members working for the Police Department never received notification that the employees of the Border Protection and Mobile Control Units went missing! NAPB members working for the Police Department never had to go and SEARCH for these missing employees! NAPB knows these immigration officers as colleagues who were working already with them from before 10-10-10 in the Netherlands Antillean Police Corpse (KPNA)!

The Minister said that the IBP Department “Getting the three divisions Residence and Admittance, Border Protection and Mobile Control Unit under one umbrella will ensure Sint Maarten's border security is up to standards just like other country's borders are being secured.”

The placement of employees and of immigration officers in the Immigration and Border Protection Services is not up to national and international labor standards, nor did placement happen according to the legislation adopted for the transition of employees from Country Netherlands Antilles to Country St Maarten.

The employees never went missing! As NAPB members these employees never went missing! Let us tell you what went missing. Let us tell you what the Minister of Justice still did not welcome to St Maarten! Let the employees tell you what is still missing for them to get what they are legally entitles to!

What went missing is legislation from the Netherlands Antilles relevant for the Justice Ministry which according to the “Transfer Nation Ordinance” (=Overdrachts Landsverordening) had to be decreed and consolidated in texts in legislation of St Maarten!!

What went missing are the decrees of honorary dismissal and the decrees which instated our members as employees of country St Maarten maintaining all their acquired rights!

What went missing are all the necessary steps according to the National Ordinance “Social Charter to build up Country St Maarten” and therefore the required decisions and decrees to arrange the legal transfer of the employees from the former Netherlands Antillean Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Justice of country St Maarten.

What went missing is the realization of their correct remunerations, the money to pay their correct salary due since 10-10-10, and the realization and continuation of their career perspectives.

The Minister in her speech on Monday thanked the officers for their commitment and diligence during the transition, while assuring them that all unresolved issues are being addressed and will be resolved. The Minister of Justice self has not been diligent with respecting the workers’ rights. The Minister has not observed the acquired rights of the employees working for immigration in KPNA from before 10-10-10. As a matter of fact, not only minister Ana Richardson, but also former Ministers of Justice have been taking decisions, have been hiring staff, placing staff, promoting staff without considering the rights of the employees from before 10-10-10. All these Justice Ministers have denied these employees the right to see the organization plan with the organogram, the formation plan, the function books, the vacancies in the new entity, etc.

NAPB has a long list of omissions and a list of corrections to be made for the Minister of Justice. If Minister Anna Richards really wants to address and resolve all unresolved issues of the workers, let her start to resolve this unresolved issue: NAPB has made several requests to meet with the Minister. Until now the Minister of Justice did not call a meeting for the NAPB to dialogue and reach to a consensus with the Minister on the outstanding issues to be resolved for our members in the Justice Ministry.

Topic 4. CCSU members did not approve changes in function books proposed by the Minister of Justice

Under the heading “CCSU unions review Justice function books” in the newspaper of yesterday, Wednesday, March 3rd 2021, the unions ABVO-SXM, WICSU-PSU, and WITU published the findings of their union representatives in the Committee of Civil Servants Unions.

NAPB officially has no representatives in the CCSU. But NAPB wants to thank the representatives of the three sister unions in the CCSU for their scrutiny of the function books and observations made. NAPB is grateful for their critical review of changes that the Minister of Justice has proposed in the documents presented to the CCSU.

What were the findings of the CCSU-members? What did the CCSU members propose?

  • CCSU members pointed out a number of decisions that are in conflict with established legislation
  • Minister of Justice has proposed to amend and to reduce full time equivalents previously decreed.
  • The Minister of Justice proposed to centralize “Bedrijfsvoering” of Justice and by doing so make 33 Justice employees “boven formatief”
  • Minister of Justice wants to retract the function book of the Police corpse and of immigration which will have repercussions for the legal position of civil servants.
  • The legal advice and other relevant documents which have to accompany proposals of change existing legislation were not provided.
  • The CCSU members advised the Minister to check out all the issues they have observed before resubmitting the function books and the information required.

The NAPB in letters to the Minister of Justice has requested the Minister to meet and negotiate with the unions representing workers in the Justice Ministry and especially in the Police Department. The Minister has answered the NAPB president (and all other presidents of unions representing workers in the Justice Ministry) that the LMA does not give any rights to a union an such but only to the Commission as a whole as a representative body of the unions.

The NAPB once more wants to make it very clear for the Minister of Justice:

  • According to ILO Convention 154 the NAPB has the right to collective bargaining, which means the right to represent and negotiate on behalf of her affiliated members in the Justice Minister.
  • Denying this right to the NAPB is a constitutional violation because the Minister does not uphold article 81b of the State Arrangement of St Maarten, which stipulates that international treaties ratified also for St Maarten are legislations in St Maarten which have to be respected.
  • According to the Civil Code unions are associations and in their bylaws is arranged which board members can represent the union in and out of court! The Committee of Civil Servants Unions is neither in court nor out of court the representative of none of the civil servant's unions. The members of unions placed in a committee which the government has installed cannot replace this legal stipulation of the civil code.
  • As a matter of fact, NAPB officially has no member appointed in the CCSU. Even though we appreciate the work of members of sister unions in the CCSU, these members of sister unions at no time legally can represent the NAPB!!

Now that even CCSU members have illustrated the shortcomings in the function books the Minister has presented to the CCSU, the NAPB is of the opinion as most representative union of the workers in the police force, that the Minister has to meet to dialogue and reach to an agreement with the NAPB. NAPB has booked another letter this week to follow up on our former request for a meeting that respects our right to collective bargaining. If the Minister of Justice and the Minister of General Affairs do not stop the disrespect for the right to collective bargaining of NAPB and its members, then NAPB will take the government to court!

Topic 5:  Occupational Health and Safety Issues at Police Station Philipsburg still unresolved

NAPB had to intervene this week on behalf of several members working at the police station in Philipsburg, who reported occupational health and safety issues at the police station in Philipsburg. They were reporting that there are still signs of a mold infestation in the Philipsburg police station.

NAPB wants to reiterate that since 2019 on numerous occasions NAPB has tabled the unhealthy and unsafe working conditions in our police stations which arose since hurricane Irma. NAPB noted that the Simpson Bay station meanwhile has been repaired and is deemed mold-free, but repairs at the Philipsburg station still have to be finished and the mold infestation is still present. Different employees have already reported sick due to this unhealthy working condition.

NAPB plans to send an email to the Chief of Police to request a meeting for the chief of police to provide documentation, which proves that the Philipsburg station is mold-free and that there is no threat to the occupational health and safety of all employees at the Philipsburg station!

This is one of the issues we have encountered this week when we were available for members to address their issues with us, which issues we want to address with our chief of police in the coming week.

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