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Union gives St. Maarten government to end of month for decision on Cost of Living Allowance

THURSDAY, 04 APRIL 2013

PHILIPSBURG–A number of unions in St. Maarten will be joining forces and giving government up to the end of this month to make a decision on the payment of the 2011 and 2012 Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for civil servants and teachers.

The Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU), ABVO union and NAPB unions have already agreed to send the ultimatum and the Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) was expected to endorse the decision after a board meeting late yesterday.

Representatives of all the unions will affix their signatures and logos to a letter informing government of the ultimatum via letter before the end of this week WITU President Claire Elshot said on Wednesday. The unions will be asking government to make a decision on the COLA by the end of this month and to also make the payment as workers were “tired” of waiting.

If government fails to meet the deadline set, the unions will meet with their members to determine the next course of action.

Elshot said government was supposed to come up with a proposal on the payment of COLA by the end of October last year. Any proposals made now will be for future payments as the unions want the 2011 and 2012 payments made post haste.

The union president said Finance Minister Roland Tuitt’s decision to contract a Holland-based group to conduct a study on the COLA, does not mean that workers are not entitled to this payment and does not mean that the money is not currently due. She reminded Tuitt that it was a consultant who had recommended that the COLA payment be placed in its current form as part of the salary scales in the first place.

Government, she noted, should not have let this issue reach this stage. Government should also not let another backlog in the payment be built up as had been done in the past.

“In the past they said they could not pay it and that it was not affordable. When we went to our membership and our membership said no way, they [government] found other means and ways and secret accounts to pay the money,” Elshot contended. “What happened in the past should have never been repeated now.”

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