Open letter to Minister of Justice A.E. Richardson

1707

 

All Staff Members of the Customs Department of Sint-Maarten

Date: August 12, 2023

Phillipsburg, Sint Maarten

Subject: Urgent Resolution Needed: Addressing Long-standing Customs Workers’ Concerns

Honorable Minister Richardson,

We write to you on behalf of the dedicated and hardworking Customs agents who have committed themselves to safeguarding our nation’s borders. It is with a deep sense of concern that we address the continuous cycle of unfulfilled promises originating from your esteemed office and the Justice Department.

The pass years, our Customs agents have persevered through a work environment that has proven to be nothing short of toxic. Despite ongoing discussions and assurances, the promises to rectify these issues have been consistently empty, causing frustration and disillusionment amongst the ranks.

The Customs agents’ steadfast dedication has been met with six persistent challenges, which, regrettably, remain unresolved:

1.Solving the Toxic Work Environment: The well-being of our Customs agents is paramount.   Addressing the toxic work environment, which has persisted for an unacceptably long time, is vital to ensuring their mental and emotional health.

  1. Completion of the Function Book: The absence of a comprehensive and up-to-date function book has impeded the Customs agents’ efficiency and adherence to established protocols. Its timely completion is essential for the seamless execution of their duties.
  1. Criteria to become a team leader: We would like to add that it should be mentioned that, 2 team leaders were appointed by Bernadina/The ministry of justice whom doesn’t meet the criteria for the position. Said position was already placed in the hands of SOAB with the result that no one was qualified for the function. We will like to know the following:

Which criteria was used for the 2 candidates to be chosen as team leaders. 

Did these candidates undergo a security screening before becoming eligible for the position.

Dutch Team leaders and coaches are currently on the island assisting/assessing these 2 candidates, whereby more candidates could have been part of this training as well.

The truth should be made known to the minister that over the span of barely 2 years more than 18 persons left the department and the reason was not mainly the salary, because one is aware before signing their contract what their salary entails.

It reads better to mention (2nd row “It is over the past years that the Customs have been working in not only a toxic environment” (this was never an issue years aback). We have reached a crucial point where for weeks there is mostly 1 person on duty or 2 including the Dutch.

  1. Salaries and Salary Scales: The issue of inadequate remuneration persists, eroding the morale and commitment of our Customs agents. The urgency of rectifying salary discrepancies and establishing equitable salary scales cannot be overstated.
  2. Acquisition of Work Dogs: Trained work dogs play a vital role in detecting contraband items and safeguarding our borders. The acquisition of these assets is essential to augment the Customs agents’ capabilities.
  1. Uniforms: Uniforms not only serve as a symbol of identity but also contribute to the professionalism of the Customs agents. Swift provision of appropriate uniforms is crucial to maintaining their appearance and morale.
  2. Training and Specialization: To effectively respond to evolving border security threats, our Customs agents require specialized training. Immediate measures should be taken to provide relevant training programs that enhance their expertise.
  1. Nonfunctional management team: The current management team exists of 1 person, which is Bernadina, Judy LaPaix is out on suspension, Johishi Romney haven’t been seen in office for the past months and there is no way on earth that a management team exists of 4 persons including the department head who is solely responsible for the entire department. This is currently the problem where there is 1 person abusing his power in Customs department, a solution needs to come sooner than later.

 

  1. No customs pass: No Customs officer do not have a pass that indicate that they are a customs officer. ( Legitimatie bewijs) 

Months of dialogues have failed to yield concrete solutions, leaving us with no choice but to  firmly declare that this status quo can no longer be tolerated or deferred. Therefore, we respectfully insist that viable solutions to these six pressing concerns be presented as soon as possible. It must be emphasized that the top priority is the amendment of salaries.

We are hopeful that you recognize the gravity of this situation and will respond promptly to address these critical issues. Our Customs agents’ continued dedication hinges upon your commitment to their welfare and the enhancement of their working conditions.

Sincerely,

Members of the Custom Department of Sint Maarten