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Teacher's union tells FZOG to ‘back off,’ and ‘stop bullying’ St. Maarten pensioners

WEDNESDAY, 30 JANUARY 2013

~ Calls request ‘gangnam style’ robbery ~

PHILIPSBURG–Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) president Claire Elshot sent a strong message to the FZOG pension fund on Tuesday urging it to “back off” from “bullying” and “ripping off’ St. Maarten pensioners.

The union president likened FZOG’s recent request to pensioners in St. Maarten to a “gangnam style” robbery and called on St. Maarten’s elected officials to look into what was happening to the people who had elected them to office.
A number of pensioners in St. Maarten recently received letters from FZOG written in Papiamentu informing them that the fund was now seeking reimbursement of the 10 per cent health care cost pensioners had to pay, starting February 2013. It said the 10 per cent would be withheld from their pensions from that month onwards.

Social and Health Insurance SZV had since issued a press release saying that it believed the FZOG fund could not request reimbursement directly from pensioners in St. Maarten. SZV informed Social Insurance Bank SVB Curaçao and FZOG Fund Director Philip Martis of its opinion via a letter on January 23.

Elshot said the union would be writing to St. Maarten Members of Parliament to enquire what they would do about this situation. She said one pensioner who had received the letter had returned it to FZOG in Curaçao, requesting that the letter be re-sent in a language the pensioner understands. Elshot said pensioners should make a copy of the letter and put it in their freezer, because that is where it belongs. “This is highway robbery,” Elshot said, denouncing the actions of FZOG.

In the letter FZOG informed the pensioners that it had paid the 10 per cent health care cost which those civil servants and former teachers were to pay for themselves, for the last five years. It also informed the pensioners that the FZOG fund was now seeking reimbursement of these expenses, starting February 2013. However, many pensioners are questioning whether this is legal as they had never received notifications to pay in the past and now the money is being taken from their small pensions.

In its letter FZOG provided a chart informing pensioners of the amount the FZOG fund would withhold from their monthly pension payments, based on the amount of pension they receive.

SZV had said in its release that it had been the entity that had taken care of health care cost for retired civil servants and teachers since 10-10-10 and the general pension fund APS was the entity that had paid them their pensions.
“As of 10-10-10, the FZOG fund, SVB Curaçao and APNA can therefore not ask St. Maarten pensioners for any reimbursement of payments made for or on their behalf. Furthermore, when the Netherlands Antilles split up, it was decided by Kingdom law that the islands should divide all assets and funds (including the FZOG fund) and any claims they would have against each other (one of such being reimbursement of cost) would have to be taken into consideration,” SZV said had in the release.

“Therefore the FZOG fund cannot claim reimbursement from any pensioner directly.”

SZV said it “sincerely regrets” that pensioners in St. Maarten received this letter written in Papiamentu and hoped SVB Curaçao, the FZOG fund and APNA would discuss this with SZV and APS in the future, prior to contacting the pensioners directly.

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