Teachers, civil servants won’t compromise on key demand

POSTED: 01/29/11 1:52 PM

“If it’s not 5.3 percent, we don’t want it.”

St. Maarten – Teachers and civil servants are to meet in working hours again on Monday to discuss the details of a proposal made by Minister of Finance Hiro Shigemoto on payment of a cost of living adjustment. The decision was made after a two hour meeting between the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU), Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) and the ABVO and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Deputy Prime Minister Thedore Heyliger, Shigemoto and Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication Franklin Meyers. The meeting was requested by Wescot-Williams, Heyliger and Shigemoto.
The words that there was a new proposal tabled in the meeting barely made it out of the mouth of the WITU President Clair Elshot’s mouth that there was a new proposal before teachers cut her off and said they would not accept anything less than the 5.3 percent adjustment. She then explained that the Minister had proposed to commit to a higher percentage of payout and to seeing if the rest could be paid out after the government reviews the amount that has been collected in Turnover Tax (TOT) in six months. Elshot said the unions told the government they need their members to ratify the proposal before saying yes and requested that he place it in writing so a decision could be made.
Teachers and civil servants mostly dismissed the proposal saying “If is not 5.3 percent we don’t want it.” One of them also led a chant of “How much I want” with all others replying, “5.3 percent.”
From that Elshot drew the conclusion that teachers rejected the proposal and asked if they were willing to meet in the weekend to come to a counter proposal. The replies included, “Go back in there and tell them we want our 5.3 percent” and “We are praying on Saturday and Sunday.” When asked if they wanted to meet on Monday there was resounding yes in reply. The meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m.
The teachers and civil servants were also upset because the legally stipulated 30 day period had passed and some of them had not received their salaries for January. The pay slips they received also did not reflect the two percent cost of living adjustment that the government said they’d be getting. This is the first month that government had to process pay roll for its entire staff. People, who had been in the service of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles, had their payroll administered by a contracted company up until December 31. There also confusion over the salaries of the police and prison guards. The mix up was discussed with Justice Minister Roland Duncan on Friday morning.
Teachers and civil servants began their day at the L.B Scot Sports Auditorium where they approved their resolution to re-emphasize that they want to be paid 5.3 percent cost of living by the end of February. The letter with their position was then taken to the Government Administration Building and delivered to the Department of General Affairs. The Members of Parliament have been copied on the letter and the unions have called for an emergency debate on the matter.
Teachers generally stood in scattered clusters when the letter was delivered and during the subsequent meeting between the Council of Ministers. They clustered together every time Elshot addressed them on behalf the triumvirate of unions who have come together around the issue. One of those moments was interrupted by the arrival the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the finance minister. At that moment the crowd parted and the three ministers were escorted into the building by security officers. Heyliger hugged people as he went and Shigemoto was booed.
In a reference to the Minister shortly after one teacher said, “One man cannot block us. We need to do something.”
Another replied, “Remember he did not get a single vote from anybody. He was appointed. So he feel he can do whatever he like.”

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