PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Thursday disclosed to Parliament that he has been made aware that the government has paid out vacation pay to some civil servants, in direct contravention of the law (national ordinance) to cut the employment benefits and income of civil servants, (semi) public sector workers.
Calling it “discriminatory, unfair and clearly illegal” the MP explained that the vacation pay was paid out to persons who left government service, while those who are currently in government service are not receiving anything “These abusive laws were passed and went into effect. This is an illegal pick-and-choose practice that both the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance are accountable for and must explain,” the MP said.
Emmanuel used some of his time during the Central Committee of Parliament on Thursday to pose the question directly to Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion. Minister Irion responded by saying that the PM received a letter from the Department Head of Personnel Affairs about the issue and that it is being looked into.
MP Emmanuel explained however, that it is not a new occurrence since payments were made months ago to resigning civil servants, two of whom recently told him of the practice. Moreover, he added, there appears to be no advice, no decree or the like that indicates that the vacation pay should be paid out to resigning civil servants. “Not just resigning civil servants, but a select group. Why and how is that possible?” Emmanuel asked.
“During the budget debate the Prime Minister indicated that resigning civil servants were not providing reasons for their resignations. Well at least now we know why some did. If they know they can get all of the money owed to them and find employment someplace else where austerity measures aren’t making them suffer and eroding their quality of life, why would they not move on?”
“The action is clearly against the law. The question is now how will government get the money back? Also, the State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen announced that the 12.5% cuts will remain in place as long as liquidity support is required. The Prime Minister has indicated that the government has not requested liquidity support for the first quarter of this year. So from that premise why not table an amendment to pay something of what is owed to civil servants still in your service and not pay illegally to those who left.,” MP Emmanuel stated.
He continued: “From the beginning I said these laws were abusive. They started out as so-called solidarity cuts, now it is tied to liquidity support. Where is the solidarity from those in the Kingdom, especially the handlers in Holland, and those at select entities here on St. Maarten that still receives all of their benefits? It is bad enough that civil servants cannot get what is due to them, but now they have to watch others leave with benefits while they continue to sacrifice and suffer.”
The MP said it is sadly ironic that the SSRP is no longer being paid, with the Minister of Finance telling employers that they are to pay 100% of salaries. “However civil servants whose benefits were cut to stand in solidarity with the private sector will continue to be negatively affected. Who are civil servants in solidarity with now? It was all a sham to impose austerity measures on government and semi-government workers,” he said.
“Now it appears that someone is busy selecting and determining who can get and who cannot. The government must be held accountable for its illegal actions and explain why the payments were made, who received their benefits compared to who didn’t, who approved it and how the situation will be rectified. I will not leave this rest because this is discrimination, it is illegal and it reeks of cronyism of the highest order,” the MP concluded.