Unionist Claire Elshot-Aventurin preparing for today’s, Monday’s, protest march.
PHILIPSBURG--Union members and public, semi-public and private-sector workers will be joining a peaceful march through Front Street today, Monday, June 22, in protest of the “discriminatory actions against every employee in St. Maarten,” organisers said. The march against racial discrimination and for human rights is slated to start at 9:00am at the Windward Islands Federation of Labour (WIFOL) building on Nisbeth Road and will lead the protesters through Front Street.
The protest is organised by civil servants union ABVO St. Maarten; Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU); Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU); WIFOL; Windward Islands Health Care Union and Associates (WIHCUA); St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU) and the Police Union of St. Maarten NAPB.
Today’s march was mandated during a meeting held Friday morning at the Little League Stadium, which was attended by approximately 100 union members, and more than 200 others who followed the meeting via a live Facebook broadcast.
“The purpose of the meeting was to indicate to our members what the unions have done thus far on their behalf in regard to the imposed measures which our government is trying to implement, and to show the members what the consequences of these discriminatory actions will have for every employee in St. Maarten,” said ABVO secretary Urvin Sjen-Liep-Shi.
Looking at the conditions for payroll support, which includes salary cuts, the St. Maarten employees are being exploited, ABVO’s secretary said.
He said this comes on top of the “ongoing discrimination” with regard to social benefits, pensions and remunerations. “For example, local police officers do not have an objective job classification similar to their Dutch counterparts working with them on the island,” Sjen-Liep-Shi stated.
Also, the unions are of the opinion that the “various actions proposed against the employees of St. Maarten” are in violation of the law.
The unions want the rights of all employees in St. Maarten respected by government and by government-owned and private companies alike. Furthermore, government is asked to negotiate the conditions for support while advocating “our human rights first and foremost, with no exceptions and to make these negotiations public.”
ABVO St. Maarten is calling on all employees who have been unlawfully dismissed or who have not been compensated, conform their labour agreement during the COVID-19 pandemic to come forward and register the name of their employer and the period for which they did not enjoy their full compensation.
The union said this information will be collected to compile a report, to seek clarity from government and to consider a possible court injunction. The union said that the utmost care will be given to guarantee anonymity.