Prime Minister Jacobs and the Council of Ministers have made several attempts to meet with the CCSU and particularly the secretariat of the CCSU whose role is to serve as an impartial mediator between Government and the unions. The Minister of General Affairs as was requested by the CCSU members in their letter of June 1st, 2020, sent a draft Covenant on July 27th, 2020 to solidify the cost cutting measures proposed. Along with the draft Covenant the Minister sent a cover letter requesting to initiate a workgroup on the agreements and further proposals of the CCSU Members, to be discussed on August 7th, 2020.
On July 31st, 2020, the CCSU’s secretariat responded to the Minister asking for clarity on the purpose and content of the recent draft covenant they received. The unions WICSU, PSU and WITU along with associate members NAPB and ABVO responded to the draft covenant, stating they were not in agreement with the way in which the conditions would be applied. They also stated that they would not be able to sign the agreement as requested by the Council of Ministers.
It should be noted that, the draft covenant was sent in order to receive feedback from the members in order for the Council of Ministers and the CCSU to come to a mutual agreement on the proposed cost cutting measures. To date the Minister has sent two requests to the CCSU members for meetings, which the CCSU did not accept.
Meanwhile, on August 31st, 2020 the CCSU filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against the Minister of General Affairs and the Minister of Finance claiming that both ministers have violated the law regarding the handling of the labour rights of the Civil Servants of St. Maarten. Although this complaint was filed on August 31st, the ministers did not receive this notice until Monday, September 7th, 2020, two weeks later.
In order to diffuse the ongoing tension with the unions the Minister of General of Affairs once again requested a meeting with the secretariat of the CCSU on the 11th of September which they again declined until after the hearing of the Ombudsman.
The Minister requested clarity from the Ombudsman on the complaint submitted by the CCSU on Friday, September 11th, 2020. Due to pre-set arrangements, the proposed date of the hearing is now scheduled for October 2nd, 2020. The Minister of General Affairs is awaiting the hearing of the Ombudsman after which, the much-anticipated negotiations with the members will continue.
It is unfortunate that the Council of Ministers was informed yesterday, September 29th, 2020 by convocation of a public meeting of parliament to be held on September 30th, 2020, with the WICLU & CCSU unions prior to the hearing of the Ombudsman. The Government remain open to discussions with the CCSU and the WICLU respectively, with the main focus of both parties coming to an amicable agreement on the proposed cost cutting measures.