SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Whether or not the Constitutional Court deems the ordinances regulating the cuts to employment benefits as unconstitutional, the initiative by the Ombudsman to submit the ordinances for review “once again echo’s what I’ve stressed from day one; it is not just about salary, but all income and deprives people of the standard of living that they are due.”
So says Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel in reaction to the news that the Ombudsman of St. Maarten, Gwendolien Mossel, after careful consideration, submitted the three national ordinances, in connection with cuts to the employment benefits of all (semi) public sector workers, to the Constitutional Court for review. Emmanuel said he is pleased with the move by the Ombudsman.
He reminded that the government has stated on numerous occasions that they informed State Secretary Knops that the austerity measures could not be enforced if they are against the laws, constitution and rights of the people of St. Maarten.
MP Emmanuel is the only MP who voted against two of the laws on February 3, 2021. He voted against the National Ordinance to reduce the employment conditions for civil servants by adjusting the terms of employment by 12.5% per July 1, 2020. This entailed the reduction of vacation allowance and the right to vacation hours, the non-granting of increases in the remuneration and the reduction of the remuneration for overtime for government employees. He also voted against the National Ordinance to standardize the top incomes and reduce the employment benefits by 12.5% per July 1, 2020, within the (semi) public sector entities.
To stand in solidarity with the people of St. Maarten, Emmanuel voted for the National Ordinance to amend the employment conditions of political authorities. As such, this law reduced the employment conditions of political authorities by 25% per July 1, 2020.
Emmanuel vehemently chastised government for not fighting for its people by accepting the laws in order to meet the conditions set by the Government of the Netherlands for receiving the second tranche of liquidity support. “Government instead proudly claimed on more than one occasion that they are not touching salaries. And they celebrated this as a great accomplishment, while denouncing my warnings as fear-mongering. I wonder if the Ombudsman is also fear-mongering?” MP Emmanuel asked.
“From day one, I have said that while the direct salary is not being touched for now, everything else is still income. Not income that is given now and then, but income that people have earned, have become accustomed to and structure their lives around. Removal of this income in terms of vacation pay, bonuses etc, affects the standard of living of our people which is morally and constitutionally wrong. Government’s responsibility is to identify measures that do not touch the people, “ Emmanuel said.
MP Emmanuel said he is pleased that the Ombudsman, the guardian of the Constitution of St. Maarten, has taken it upon herself to have the Constitutional Court review the laws. “Whether or not the court deems the laws unconstitutional, there is one fact that this government cannot escape: that they made the lives of the people of St. Maarten harder,” the MP said.
“In the next few months people will start feeling the loss of income when school fees and uniforms are due, when house and car insurance are due, when hurricane preparations are due and maybe even when medical costs are due since government now have an issue with pharmacies accepting medical cards. So on top of all of that, the people might have to pay for their medical costs if a solution is not found. I said then and I will continue saying, the cuts to income were wrong, unfair, unconstitutional and immoral,” Emmanuel concluded.