Philipsburg – On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, representatives from all the unions representing the public and private sector convened with the Council of Ministers (COM) upon invitation. The meeting, initiated by the COM, centered on crucial topics including Vacation Allowance, Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA), Justice Matters, payment to subsidized schools, Social & Health Insurance (SZV), Med Works, and the National Health Insurance (NHI).
While commending  the COM for extending the invitation, the unions expressed concerns regarding the current political atmosphere and sought clarity on the purpose of the meeting, considering the caretaker status of the government. Despite extensive discussions, the outcomes did not align with the expectations or satisfaction of the unions. Many queries raised by the unions remained unanswered, prompting a promise of a follow-up update within a week.
Of particular concern to the unions was the terminology surrounding Vacation Allowance and COLA. The COM’s reference to these as promises from the previous administration was contested. The unions clarified that these were outcomes of negotiations between the COM and the union representatives, with agreements solidified through a covenant signed by both parties. The negotiations involved key representatives from the government’s Human Resource Department, Finance, and Legal Affairs, as well as union presidents from CCSU, WITU, WICSU-PSU, and ABVO. The unions had a lengthy discussion where the covenant that was agreed on with the previous Council of Ministers that the members of the current Council of Ministers indicated to have not read, however, indicated that the COLA and the Vacation Allowance could not be paid as the amendment to the law was not done.
The unions that were represented in the CCSU during this negotiation were informed that the amendment to the existing “Bezoldigings Regeling” was at the Council of Advice. It is very concerning for the unions to hear that this process has not been started. The Minister of Finance also indicated that due to the non-existence of the amended law, she is not comfortable paying the increase in the vacation allowance or the 2% COLA as she is not ready to go to jail.
The unions informed that Jurisprudence had already been established when the vacation allowance was paid in 2022 even though the law was not amended nor lifted that governed the 12.5% ordinance. The unions were also informed that the calculations were included in the 2024 budget for both payments. The unions would like to caution the current Council of Ministers that the unions secured on behalf of their members a covenant that must be upheld as the discussion was prided on continuity.
The unions representing the public sector is cautioning the Council of Ministers that the members in the public service are expecting and anticipating the payment of their vacation allowance by June 15, 2024, and their COLA within the next 30 days as the budget 2024 has already been approved. Anything, besides that positive message of payment being made will not be a message that any union will take back to its members.
Additionally, discussions encompassed issues such as LBs for justice workers, where the disbursing process does not meet the approval of the unions, in the absence of the Justice Minister, the TEATT Minister gave an update on his behalf and informed the unions that a further update and the way forward will be given on his return.
The services being offered by SZV and the non-payment of the first two days of sick leave were a concern of the unions, the COM requested information from the unions on the matters brought forward and will respond to the concerns accordingly.
1% Outstanding Subsidized School Boards.
The unions sought clarification on the process and timeline for payments owed to the school boards and inquired if all school boards submitted their calculations and if not if it can be indicated who is missing according to Government records.
National Health Insurance.
Regarding NHI, the unions questioned whether concerns raised by both the unions and the community were being addressed. The Minister of VSA informed us that there is a formation of a committee that comprises persons across various ministries. She indicated that there was no information left behind from her predecessors. The unions offered to present relevant documents to aid in the process even though this document is a public document as it was registered in the Government system.
In response to the union’s concerns, the Minister of General Affairs committed to discussing these issues with relevant ministers and pledged to provide a written update within a week on the matters of the Vacation Allowance and within two weeks on the matters affecting the Charlotte Brookson Academy.