Unions WITU & WICSU to write St. Maarten Government about cost-of-living payment

PHILIPSBURG--Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) and Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) will be sending government a joint letter on the payment of the 2010 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

The unions will be sending the letter in their capacity as members of the advisory body GOA. They will be registering their disappointment in government's position on the payment, WITU President Claire Elshot said on Monday. The letter, addressed to Prime Minister and Minister of Personnel and General Affairs Sarah Wescot-Williams, is expected to go out today, Tuesday.

The 3.2 per cent 2010 COLA payment was supposed to have been made in January 2012. However, the union was invited by Wescot-Williams to meet with the Personnel Affairs Department last week to discuss a "structural way" of handling the payment without any financial implications for government.

Elshot said that meeting had produced no new information. She said the department officials had reported that they had heard that another proposal for the payment of the Cost of Living Adjustment was being worked on by the Finance Department, but had not received that proposal.

Elshot told reporters last week that the union had received information that government had decided "not" to make the payment and that this payment was not included in the 2012 budget.

She said she did not understand how government expected to resolve this matter without any financial implications, as the workers expected to be paid. "We can't come to a structural solution, because everything has gone up," Elshot said last week, alluding to the spiralling cost of living in St. Maarten.
She mentioned at that time the struggle waged by workers earlier this year for backdated COLA payments. This struggle resulted in demonstrations by teachers, civil servants and members of the disciplined services, and meetings held during school and work hours.