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St. Maarten union leader queries consultants studying the cost-of-living adjustment system


~ Says realities are different ~

PHILIPSBURG–Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) President Claire Elshot said on Tuesday that the consultants who will study the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) scheme St. Maarten uses might not be fully in touch with the realities of St. Maarten.

Elshot was expressing her opinion on the recent announcement by Minister of Finance Roland Tuitt that consultants would be contracted from Holland to study what he called the outdated COLA system. Tuitt stressed, as he has before, that the current system is not conducive and feasible in St. Maarten’s current economic climate.

However, Elshot said the consultants lived in Holland where the realities are different than those of St. Maarten. She said, for example, that Dutch consumers are protected by legislation and cost controls are in place, which is quite the contrary in St. Maarten. She said Dutch civil servants and teachers had better salaries and benefits than in St. Maarten.

As such, she said consultants from Holland could not give an opinion on “our way of life” when their realities were different. She also said that while the minister and others were looking for a sustainable system for the future, the question remained what would happen with the current outstanding COLA payments of 2011. “This has to be paid,” she said, adding that government was doing business “in a strange way.”

As for the ultimatum letter she had said would be sent to government last week, Elshot explained that this had been retracted for the time being after requests were received from the other unions who wanted the letter to be submitted in a unified manner. Elshot said the ultimatum letter would be forwarded to government when all unions had given their input.

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