Court calls end to prison strike, orders medical examinations

Court calls end to prison strike,  orders medical examinations

PHILIPSBURG--The judge in the Court of First Instance has ordered an end to the strike called by the Pointe Blanche Inmates Association (PBIA) some two months ago.

  The Inmates Association had filed a list of grievances pertaining to minimum staffing of six prison guards per shift, a day programme for all prisoners and medical examinations. Only where the medical examinations are concerned did the judge award the inmates’ demands.

  In its judgment of Friday, March 17, the court ordered that detainees should be examined by a medical doctor within 24 hours after their arrival in the prison, if and as far as those detainees were not examined by a doctor at the police station prior to their arrival in prison, under payment of NAf. 2,000 per violation.

  The government was also ordered to have the detainees examined by the medical service as soon as possible after report of a medical complaint. The Inmates Association’s other demands in summary proceedings were declared inadmissible.

  In response to the government’s counterdemands, the court ordered PBIA to instruct its members to resume work, under penalty of NAf. 1,000 per day in case of non-compliance.

  At the start of the inmates’ strike, PBIA and country St. Maarten engaged in talks about the association’s grievances, but these did not lead to an agreement.

  In summary proceedings, which were heard by the judge on Monday, March 13, the association called on the judge to grant its strike demands, on pain of a penalty of NAf. 10,000 per day, with a maximum of NAf. 250,000.

  In its defence, the government, represented by attorney Aernout Kraaijeveld, concluded that PBIA’s claims were inadmissible and should be rejected. The court was called on to forbid the organisation of any strikes, protests, meetings, work stoppages and manifestations, “if those activities lead to difficulties in the conduct of business” inside the prison.

  Also, the inmates were to be instructed to resume their work at the workplace applicable to each of them, against payment of NAf. 1,000 per day in case of non-compliance.

  According to government, the inmates’ strike would constitute a threat to national security and increase the prison guards’ workload. Government contested that the strike was peaceful, as the police had to be called in to get groups of detainees back into their cells.

  According to the European Social Charter (ESC), detainees have the right to act collectively, strikes included, in case of conflicts of interests. According to PBIA, the aim of the strike was “to ensure that the number of custodians is brought back up to standard so that safety conditions are no longer at stake, as well as that medical conditions are no longer violated, because safety and health conditions are seriously compromised.”

  Concerning the strike demands, the court ruled that where the day programme and the detention capacity were concerned PBIA had insufficiently tried to consult with the authorities.

  The court rejected the inmates’ claims where the number of prison guards was concerned, as this problem cannot be solved in the short term.

  Under these circumstances, the strike could not contribute to the right to “collective bargaining” between the government and PBIA, the judge concluded. The court considered that the government had a “significant interest” in ending the strike. “It can be assumed that the strike significantly disrupts the course of events within the institution and  increases the workload of the guards,” the judge stated in the verdict.

  “I’m happy that the medical situation is now guaranteed with penalty payments,” lawyer Roseburg said in a reaction on behalf of the Inmates Association. “I hope this will now be sorted out; otherwise, penalties will be cashed in.”

  In response to the other demands, the lawyer said PBIA will “engage or remain” in consultation with the government “hoping that there will come a plan about how to solve the problem with the detention capacity. … All parties have an interest in this and that will also restore peace and security” in the prison, Roseburg said.

The Daily Herald

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