Government awaiting further feedback from CCSU
On Wednesday, May 13th, the Council of Ministers met with the unions for a second time, to discuss the proposed cost-cutting measures for Government. Some of these suggestions directly influence Civil Servants, thus deeming it necessary to discuss these measures with the spokespersons of the Committee of Civil Servants Unions (CCSU). This was the second meeting held with the Unions to discuss cost-cutting measures. During the first meeting, Government made the following proposal:
– cut its own salary by another 5% which is a total 20% cut
– 10% off salaries over NAF. 8,000
– Cut of vacation pay 2020 off salaries over NAF. 4000
Also included in the proposal is freezing or postponement of bonuses etc.
None of the proposed cost-cutting measures would apply to anyone making under NAF. 4.000, -, which the Minister of Finance stressed in his opening remarks during the press briefing earlier that Wednesday. Due to additional costs being added to the budget, including the need to support the income of so many citizens who have been without work through the St. Maarten Stimulus & Relief Plan (SSRP).
During the second meeting on Wednesday, May 13th, a second proposal was presented. “While it was never the intention to cut civil servants salary, after assessing the economic fallout of zero tourism since March and the lack of income being generated for the government the need for liquidity support to be able to meet gov expenditures including subsidy, salary, etc. and finding very little areas from which to cut in an already lean budget.” The Prime Minister stated. The Government is currently in a precarious financial position, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on lives and economies worldwide, and Sint Maarten is no exception. Just as the private sector has done, it is crucial that cuts are made within government spending.” Minister Jacobs continued. This will allow for more money to be spent on things like recovery, nationwide health and support. The second proposal included:
– deferring bonuses to 2021
– cutting uniform budgets
– reducing vacation pay by 50%
– Reducing gross salaries of over NAF. 8000 with 10% until the end of 2020
Though civil servants representatives should fight for the rights of the persons that they represent as it is mandated by law, the reality of the situation must be taken seriously. The Government is, therefore, asking civil servants to bear with them as this will be a temporary measure until the island is better positioned to sustain itself again. If we, the people of this island, are not willing to sacrifice to help our most vulnerable, how can we expect others to do so? Ten thousand employees on St. Maarten are expected to be without an income or a reduced income, and Government is expected to supplement or at least provide a basic income for said persons via the St. Maarten Stimulus Recovery & Plan.
Minister Irion stated “I understand their concerns and I can say this, this Government came in and addressed a few key things immediately, one being the payment of police officers an issue that was not tackled for at least close to 10 years. I can say this, this Government and in particular, myself as Minister of Finance will continue to tackle the concerns of the unions. I would like to clarify a few things that were placed in the media and social. In our meeting we discussed NAF. 4k not touched, 4 and up vacation pay 8k and up 10%. Vacation pay is not a contribution of civil servants but actually an expense of Government as we pay this from our treasury.”
He continued, “Government’s intention is not to punish civil servants or to make them suffer. That is absolutely not the goal. But what we hope to achieve is to provide assistance to our brothers and sisters in the private sector also who will not only have no vacation allowance but might not even have an income for the coming months. I look forward to a fruitful discussion with the unions, and I firmly believe we will leave with a solution in the best interest of the island.” Now that Government has presented their proposals to the CCSU, they await further feedback from the Unions.