PHILIPSBURG-- The judge in the Court of First Instance on Friday banned police union NAPB, civil servants’ union ABVO and NAPB leader Rogerrel Mauricio from organising meetings, work stoppages, parades and public demonstrations, in case these hamper justice operations.
The court put this ban in place until Friday, July 2, when the court is to rule on the other demands as laid down by country St. Maarten, the unions and their leader in the injunction procedures, which were initiated Thursday by Minister of Justice Anna Richardson.
With the support of the Council of Ministers Richardson filed an injunction requesting that justice workers be instructed to discontinue their demonstrations and allow discussions about their grievances to take place around the table.
Richardson, who was not present on Friday but was represented in court by attorney-at-law Aernout Kraaijeveld, said she felt betrayed by the unions and claimed that the protest actions were in violation of the law.
According to the minister, this week’s demonstrations had been causing “disturbances.” The court action was taken in the interest of national security.
The minister feared that the police actions would damage the economy and would put a spoke in the wheel where homeporting was concerned.
The unions claimed that they were in their rights to take industrial actions. They denied that any justice worker was on strike, and said that police officers, prison officials and officials at the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBPS) were only on a “go-slow”.
Their representative in the injunction, attorney-at-law Cor Merx, assured that national security had not been and would not be at stake at any moment. He said that the police dispatch was never unmanned, and the immigration booths at the Princess Juliana International Airport and Port St. Maarten never understaffed. He also denied allegations that roadblocks would have been in the planning.
After hearing both parties and after a 10-minute recess the judge gave his decision to limit the unions’ rights to hold industrial actions until July 2, because the aim of the slow-down actions was insufficiently clear.
The judge said he understood the union’s “frustrations” about, for instance, the long-time disputes over function books and vacation allowances, “but these are insufficient to justify industrial actions of this nature,” he said.
The judge refrained from imposing penalties in confidence that the unions will abide by this court ruling. In addition, union leader Mauricio will not be held personally liable in case of non-compliance.
The judge will give a full judgment on all claims on Friday, July 2. In anticipation of this verdict, he said it was “very unfortunate” that the minister of Justice is confronting the police in this way.
“This injunction is fundamentally wrong because the police are keeping this country safe. The way in which country St. Maarten is railing against the police is unfortunate. There is no reason whatsoever for the allegation that the police are misbehaving. This is confirmed by what Mr. Mauricia has said,” the judge said.
He urged the parties to sit down to settle their differences among themselves.
The Justice ministry said in a reaction it was “happy” that its main claim was awarded till the final decision, which will come next week Friday.
The ministry pointed out that in the meetings of June 22 and June 24 the progress of the function books was discussed and explained already to the unions.
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 26, a pre-arranged working session will take place at the Government Administration Building with the unions to go over the function books. “The ministry is looking forward to hear the other concerns the unions may have,” it said.