The Cola Drama 2

On June 13, 2013 I submitted an article to the Media expressing my opinion with respect to the cost of living (COLA) outstanding to civil servants, teachers, police and prison officers along with other government workers, including laborers, who have rights to it.. 

Since June there is no resolution with respect to the indexation of 2011 or 2012 of salaries. The Prime Minister’s and Finance Minster’s unilateral decision to disregard the acquired rights of those who are entitled by deciding, unilaterally, to pay 50% lump sum over 2011 in lieu of the indexation of the actual cost of living increase over that year has not changed. Mind you there is no talk what so ever from Government’s position concerning 2012 COLA adjustment.

On August 27th 2013 the Council of Ministers met with the different union representatives with respect to the issue of the COLA. That meeting did not yield any results in terms of agreement because the Council of Ministers maintained its position and the Union rightfully maintained theirs.

In my opinion, based on my Trade Union experience, I believe that the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers in a diplomatically forcing the unions to submit an advice to Government through the GOA.

Two observations:

Firstly, besides the WICSU/PSU and WITU, none of the other unions are members of the GOA and consequently don’t have no say with respect to any advice to the Council of Ministers. This will only create a divide and rule situation as well as depriving the other two unions’ namely ABVO and the Police Union of their rights to have an input on behalf of their membership;

Secondly, in its present structure the GOA is an advisory body, meaning that Government has the exclusive right to go against that advice and take its decision stating its reasons, why a decision is taken contrary to the advice of the GOA. This is all regulated in the Law regulation the GOA.

To add insult to injury, MP Roy Marlin’s in his statement during the 2013 budget debate, in the Herald of Tuesday, September 3rd edition, stated that the COLA as is will cause a deterioration of services. To clarify, at no point and time did the unions state or indicated their unwillingness to negotiate a different application to the COLA adjustment. I want to remind the MP Mr. Roy Marlin that the deterioration of services has nothing to do with the COLA. The deterioration of services, started from the introduction of the IMF instructed implemented austerity measures by the then Federal Government as well as the Island Territories over 10 years ago. The unions at that time protested the austerity measures because it was a proven fact that all IMF implemented measures throughout the Caribbean region have caused the deterioration of services (measures always included drastic reduction of personnel, cut in education- justice budgets, increase in taxes); the mismanagement of Government over the years and in particular under the Democratic Party, who was in power for most of those years; the mismanagement with respect to the of the withdrawal of pension premiums to the APNA from government workers and not transferring withdrawals to the APNA. That Mr. MP Mr. Roy Marlin caused a hole in the budget because of retroactive payment of premiums already deducted. I can go on and on to the present situations where among other, the medical university is allowed to get away with the payment of over one hundred million guilders! Imagine what that can do to ensure that quality public service is not deteriorated. The COLA in its present structure has nothing absolutely to do with the deterioration of the public roads; the annual vehicle tax, in my humble opinion vehicle tax is collected annually is collected for that purpose.

Mr. MP I would advise you as Member of Parliament to instruct your party leader to make a firm commitment in terms of the payout of 2011 and 2012 COLA indexation and start early negotiations with all unions outside of the GOA structure on a new approach of the 2013 adjustment onward.

Patricia Pantophlet