It is interesting to see how Government is managing its negotiations with the unions representing government workers.
While on May 19th , the Government presented to Parliament a so-called take it or leave it deal from the Kingdom Government and an attached deadline, from media reports it appears as if Government has some maneuvering space or at least, the Government seems to think it has maneuvering space to decide “don’t cut here, cut there.”
It is either that Government is not telling the whole truth regarding the conditions imposed by the Kingdom Government or the Government is taking the civil servants and their representatives for a ride.
Remarkable is also that during the discussions in Parliament, the members were not provided with the official communication to the Government of St. Maarten. Then you had the letter fiasco. One thing was clear in that exchange however, both letters must have had the approval of the Prime Minister of St. Maarten.
It was a valiant attempt by the Minister Plenipotentiary to take responsibility for the “unconditional” letter, but it does not work like that.
What the Parliament did receive was Government’s proposed cost cutting measures dated May 13th, which were nowhere close to the conditions imposed by Mr. Knops and agreed to by the Government of St. Maarten in its unconditional letter.
The Government is now intentionally downplaying this part of their agreement with Mr. Knops, whilst announcing the payments that are taking place in the context of the Stimulus and Relief Plan.
What will happen when this catches up with us? And catch up it will.
It is in my opinion high time that the offer by the Prime Minister be taken up to enlighten Parliament as to Government’s alternatives to this agreement with the Dutch and Kingdom Governments (one and the same), because obviously this brinkmanship cannot last.
Or was this announcement by the Prime Minister about alternatives to the Dutch conditions just another attempt to keep Parliament quiet and see how this situation will unfold?
I have posed the following questions to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
- Has the Kingdom Government formally presented to the Government of St. Maarten its approval of the “COVID-19 loan” to St. Maarten and the conditions attached thereto? If so, please share this communication from the Kingdom Government.
- Does the Kingdom Government leave it open to replace their stated conditions with other cost cutting measures? In other words, can the Government of St. Maarten fill in how they apply these conditions?
- What is the latest offer on the table for the unions that represent government workers?
- Is this a realistic and doable offer?
- How much negotiating space does the government of St. Maarten have?
- Has the Kingdom government demanded an overall quantitative reduction in the budget of the country or a reduction in specific items such as salaries and related benefits?
- When will the necessary (emergency) legislation be presented to parliament to effectuate the changes as proposed by government, including the budget amendments?