SABA — Two motions were presented to the Island Council by Island Council Members Elsa Peterson and Vito Charles, both of the WIPM party, one motion addressing the continued urgency to establish the social minimum and a second motion on the minimum salaries of the Public Entity Saba with a cost-of-living adjustment.
Peterson and Charles submitted their motions during a meeting of the Island Council to handle the 2022 Year Report and the first 2023 budget amendment. Peterson’s motion instructed the Executive Council to take a number of actions. The first action is to engage all partners in the Netherlands to ensure that the establishing of a social minimum for Saba’s vulnerable residents remains a priority.
The social minimum motion also instructed government to maintain a dialogue with all stakeholders and to promote the establishing of a social minimum as soon as possible after the findings of the Caribbean Netherlands Social Minimum Committee are published.
Thirdly, the Executive Council was instructed to lobby that a package of financial scenarios as called for in the adopted motion of Member of the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament Jorien Wuite is developed to facilitate the introduction of the social minimum as soon as possible.
It was stated in the motion that establishing a social minimum is much needed because the “persistent inequality and poverty pose significant challenges to the well-being and social fabric of the community” and a further delay “exacerbate the distress of the already significant number of people living in poverty and those living on the edge of it.”
Adjusted for inflation
The motion of Councilman Charles asked the Executive Council to, in absence of a social minimum, ensure that the salary of the lowest paid civil servants should not be less that the social minimum as referenced in the Regioplan study and adjusted for inflation.
Regioplan in 2018 set the cost of living on Saba at US $1,540 for single households, $2,060 for a couple and $2,500 for a couple with one child. These amounts require an upward adjustment because of the increased cost of living. The Public Entity Saba already took a step to raise the lower salaries of its employees to ensure that nobody earns less than $1,600.
Charles’ motion also requested government that in future negotiations with the labor unions, the Public Entity Saba, as a participant, took reasonable steps to ensure that the increase in the cost-of-living adjustment was commensurate with the increase in the inflation rate of that year.
The motion further asked that the Public Entity Saba make efforts to ensure that the salary scales are at least equal to those of the Caribbean Netherlands National Government Department RCN, taking into account that the negotiate benefits are already harmonized.
Voted in favor
All three Council Members present at the meeting, Peterson, Charles and Saskia Matthew of the PEP party, and all voted in favor of the social minimum motion and the minimum salary motion. “As government and the largest employer on Saba, it is our duty to lead by example,” said Peterson. Matthew called the minimum salary motion a “very good initiative” and said it was important to also look at reducing the cost of living.
Peterson’s motion was actually the second motion that called for the establishing of the social minimum by the Dutch Government. On September 22, 2021, the Saba Island Council adopted a first motion on the same topic, calling for the establishing of a social minimum to ensure an adequate standard of living for Saba’s most vulnerable citizens. “Report after report confirmed the need for a social minimum, yet there is still no social minimum and now we have a collapsed Dutch Government. We cannot wait for a new government. We need to ensure that the social minimum gets established rather sooner than later,” said Charles.