PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Justice Anna Richardson on Wednesday issued a letter to all justice workers asking them to submit documentation, including emails, as proof of their functions and time serving the government. The reason for this request is that “the administration of the Ministry of Justice is not up to par.”
Due to the current state of the Justice Ministry’s administration, “some documents are not readily available,” Richardson said during Wednesday’s Council of Ministers (COM) press briefing, in the presence of Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Finance Minister Ardwell Irion. The other four members of the COM were absent.
The Human Resources (HR) department of the Ministry of Justice does not have access to all personnel-related information, Richardson explained. “We went to CCSU [Committee of Civil Servants Unions – ED.], and we gained the consensus of CCSU to be able to use historic information from the payroll.”
Richardson said that the payroll would provide insight into the total workforce and each worker’s years with the Justice Ministry. “You might have some people that were given a directive to start functioning in a specific position via an email, and they can show you that they have been in that capacity based on that email for however long.”
The emails serve as testimony, Richardson said. “If you have any documentation to support the function you are in, share it with us, because in dispersing your offer letters, we want to take these things into consideration.”
Richardson explained that the ministry of justice has until the end of March 2023 to fulfil the promise to start paying justice workers retroactively the differences in salaries owed to them. She became agitated speaking about the deadline of March 15, given by lawyer Cor Merx in a press conference on Tuesday, on behalf of police officers who have been waiting on their offer letters for the past 13 years.
“We are perplexed about why this is going on,” Richardson said, speaking for herself and her HR staff. “When have they have ever seen the process come this far? We are literally at the finish line.”
Richardson referred to a town hall meeting that she hosted in the Government Building on January 12. “The room was completely filled with justice workers. Not just police, but all personnel,” she said. “Present were the members of our placement committee as well as the head of our HR department who gave a presentation as to the steps that are being taken.”
After the updates were given, Richardson said, there was at least one member of the audience who said: “Minister give us a date!” Richardson responded that she preferred not to, “because I don’t want to create this unrest. I would prefer that it is understood that uhm, you know, we are talking about nine different departments. Over 700 employees. This is a meticulous process.
The young lady indicated that while she understands the caution, she would really like to know when. At that time the head of HR said: “At the end of the first quarter.”
Richardson, annoyed: “The end of the first quarter is the end of March. March has 31 days.”
Consistently making unrest is not conducive to the process, she said. “We communicated the steps taken, and there were union members present at the town hall meeting. As a matter of fact, I clearly remember seeing one in the front row.”
The experience the Ministry of Justice has had thus far, is that despite communication, despite meetings held, unrest is being caused, Richardson said. “We see types of miscommunication, misleading union members and the population of St. Maarten.”
She said she is going to make sure the salary calculations requested by the governor of St. Maarten are audited, “because the next outburst is going to be that the calculations are not correct.” To avoid this, said Richardson “we are making sure that we do this thing the correct way.”