Philipsburg, Sint Maarten -– The Honorable Anna E. Richardson, Minister of Justice, demonstrated her commitment to fostering a collaborative work environment by engaging in a comprehensive three-hour meeting with Customs Officers on Friday, August 18, 2023.
The meeting took place at the Customs office on E. Camille Richardson Street and included the Customs Management Team, the Minister’s support staff, legal representative, and representatives from various unions.
The purpose of the meeting was to provide Customs Officers with an open platform to express their concerns and grievances, which had recently been highlighted through the media. During the session, the Minister and her team actively listened to the officers’ viewpoints on diverse matters related to their roles, responsibilities, working conditions, and professional development.
Key topics addressed during the meeting included the Function Book, Legal Position (rechtspositie), Salary Scales, Uniforms, and Educational Opportunities. The Minister emphasized the importance of transparency and clarity in communication, dispelling any misconceptions that may have arisen.
One significant highlight was the clarification surrounding the Function Book, which was approved in December 2021 for the entire Ministry of Justice, including the Customs Department. Minister Richardson acknowledged the need for updates and explained that the Function Book was a dynamic document, currently undergoing revisions to enhance its relevance and effectiveness.
The issue of the Customs Officers’ legal position and salary scales was also discussed comprehensively. The Minister affirmed that an agreement had been reached within the CCSU platform to address the legal position after the finalization of Police, Immigration, and National Detectives in 2023. The Minister encouraged Customs Officers to familiarize themselves with the current legal position in order to actively contribute to the discussions that will commence between now and the end of October 2023.
Minister Richardson also addressed the unfortunate passing of two service dogs and explained the considerations involved in replacing them. She highlighted the financial implications and the need for a structured approach to ensure proper care and management of these valuable assets.
On the topic of uniforms, the Acting Head of Customs Mr. Franklin Bernadina informed that budget constraints had impacted uniform purchases. However, efforts were underway to solicit quotations from different suppliers, adhering to government policies for the purchases of goods. Minister Richardson also acknowledged the staff’s preference for the dark blue uniform shirt with cargo pants which is currently not recognized within their legal structure.
In response to inquiries about educational opportunities, Minister Richardson shared plans for collaboration with Curacao to provide accredited courses to Customs Officers. She also mentioned ongoing discussions regarding the establishment of the Law Enforcement Institute of Sint Maarten, aimed at facilitating specialized training courses.
Concluding the meeting, the Minister expressed gratitude to the Acting Head of Customs for his efforts and commitment. Acknowledging the importance of strong management, she encouraged interested Customs Officers to submit letters of interest to be considered for the Customs Management Team.
The Minister’s engagement demonstrated her dedication to resolving concerns and fostering a conducive working environment for the staff. The collaborative dialogue paved the way for constructive solutions and highlighted the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to continuous improvement.