Prime minister proposes civil servants day off, pension age increase, maternity leave

POSTED: 11/8/12 1:23 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams wants to expand the basket of controlled goods as part of the review of the cost of living adjustment.

The prime minister said that she had proposed to the Ministry of Economic Affairs to expand the basket of controlled goods to some additional goods and that some healthy foods be also added to the basket.

“This proposal was well received by the minister and we hope to work it out shortly,” the prime minister said.

Vice president of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions Claire Elshot recommended the expansion of the controlled food baskets some two months ago. She emphasized that while salaries may be adjusted for civil servants, they can barely afford to pay supermarket prices for nutritional items in particular.

Day Off for Civil Servants
The prime minister also announced a pilot project for civil servants to get time off to spend with children in the schools. This is expected to see collaboration with school boards and teachers and it will be executed in a structural manner, the prime minister said.

“I believe that is necessary and government should lead by example and set a trend when we too repeat the cliché that we need to work with the youth, the upcoming generation. I want to give the civil servants the opportunity to do so.”

“It is not going to be a day off just to do what you want, the prime minister cautioned. Instead civil servants will have to provide progress reports of their activities. “I know it will require more work from government. It cannot be that we will say that the workers have one day off a month and we end up only seeing them after a year. There has to be some kind of reporting to make sure that the measure it is intended for is being adhered to.”
The project is expected to come on stream in January and will start will a small group first to evaluate its effectiveness.

“Someone from Personnel Affairs will guide the individuals, I don’t want it to be a controlling and checking thing,” the prime minister when asked how government ensure that workers actually utilize the day in the right way instead of further compounding the problem that government currently has with ghost civil servants.
She is hoping that the private sector follows suit, explaining that she does not believe that legislation should be enacted to implement such an initiative.

“It would be wonderful if the private sector could follow suit. It will be beneficial to government and the same will hold true for the private sector. I don’t believe this is something that necessarily should be legislated but I am sure if the private sector understands the importance of it they would want to follow suit.”
Extension of Maternity Leave

The prime minister said she is also looking at the possibility of extending maternity leave for civil servants in the initial stages.

“Further yet you have the possibility of the changes to the civil code that will then apply to the entire community. It will be something that is not only of government but of parliament as well.”
She did not give an indication of how many additional days would be granted to maternity leave but said that within the coming weeks she will continue to discuss the initiative with key stakeholders and also review approaches that were taken by Curacao within necessarily adopting them.
“I want government that has so many employees to set the trend in terms of taking care of our workers. By taking care of our workers who then look after their kids we are then doing our part in terms of the formation of the upcoming generations,” the prime minister said. This initiative she also hopes to implement by next year.                                                                                                                                       

Pension Age Increase
The prime minister also wants to institute transition measures for civil servants in connection with the impending increase of the pension age.
Pensions in its entirety are expected to be brought to parliament shortly. The proposal is for an increase of the pension age from 60 to 62 years.                                         

“Once that law takes effect we can say that from now we will extend the civil servants’ working agreements for a year or two because that change is to come,” the prime minister said.
However government will not make a decision without consulting social partners such as workers unions.
The proposal has been made for the age increase has already been drafted and will now be forwarded to the Organized Consultative Body (GOA)
This proposal comes at a time when government is also planning to increase pension payments in 2013.

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