Minister of Justice Holds Meeting with NAPB & ABVO Unions Regarding Staff National Decrees

Minister of Justice Holds Meeting with NAPB & ABVO Unions Regarding Staff National Decrees

(Center) Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson with the NAPB and ABVO union representatives following the urgent meeting on Monday February 19, 2024. (Center) Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson with the NAPB and ABVO union representatives following the urgent meeting on Monday February 19, 2024.

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, convened a meeting with representatives from the NAPB and ABVO unions on Monday, February 19, 2024, at the Government Administration Building at approximately 14:30 hours. This urgent meeting followed reports of Justice personnel gathering with their respective union representatives at the Sint Maarten Little League Ball Park in Philipsburg, to address concerns on the status of the new salary scales and National Decrees subsequent to the co-signing of the Justice Legislative Package on Wednesday, December 27, 2023.

During the meeting, Minister Richardson sought clarification from the unions regarding the alleged letters sent to her office concerning the status of the National Decrees (LBs). The Minister had no knowledge of letters sent to her Cabinet as stated publicly by the union.  Admittedly, the union representatives confirmed that they only provided Minister Richardson with a digital copy of a letter sent via email to her Attorney in November 2023, which was prior to the date of the signing of the Justice Legislative Package.

In the spirit of transparency, Minister Richardson shared numerous correspondences indicating that the National Decrees (LBs) were in the preparation stage and sent to the Ministry of Finance for their standard control processes, prior to going to His Excellency Governor of Sint Maarten. However, they were sent back from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Justice, requesting that additional documents be added to the file per staff.

The first phase of the National Decrees (LBs) focuses on ratification to prevent further financial debt accumulation beyond December 31, 2023, thereby ensuring that active staff members where applicable, are placed in the appropriate salary scales. Subsequent phases will address the retroactive period between 10-10-10 and 31-12-2022.

Upon recognizing the challenges, both the Minister and the union representatives agreed to support the team responsible for preparing the National Decrees, incorporating the necessary additional resources. 

Minister Richardson acknowledged the regrettable lengthiness of the process and assured union representatives of her steadfast commitment to resolving the situation until her term in office concludes.

Today, on February 20, 2024, Minister Richardson convened a meeting with the Department Heads of the Ministry of Justice, providing them with a comprehensive explanation regarding the meticulous implementation of LBs.

During this session, similar to the engagement with the unions, Minister Richardson highlighted that the team has initiated the issuance of LBs dating back to 2023, as a proactive measure to alleviate the growing debt within the Ministry.

The detailed process was thoroughly discussed during the meeting, outlining the key steps involved. Human Resources (HR) Justice and the Control Division of the Ministry of Justice continues to lead in preparing the advice, which includes a pre-validation step for each placement proposal within files, evaluating the individual financial aspects related to the draft national decree, and providing necessary support documentation. Two (2) persons have volunteered to assist the HR department after seeing the depth and magnitude of the assignment. These persons have signed an Integrity and Confidentiality agreement given the nature of the undertaking.

Thereafter, the advice will undergo a meticulous review, approval, and signing by the Secretary-General (SG) of the Ministry of Justice. Following this, control checks will be conducted by the Financial Administration and FBBB within the Ministry of Finance, culminating final approval and signature by the SG of Finance. The process further entails approval and signatures from both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance before submission to the Council of Ministers (CoM) for approval. It will then be sent to the office of the Governor for a thorough review of each file by His Excellency, followed by pre-signing by the Governor, and finally, the Minister of Justice will affix her signature to conclude the process.

Once the LBs are signed, they will be promptly distributed to each employee and the wage and salary (L&S) department. Notably, each employee is granted a 30-day window to lodge any appeals against their received National Decree. If no appeals are filed within this period, payment procedures can commence. 

To expedite the resolution of outstanding issues, the aim is to draft and process a minimum of 25 LBs per week. Minister Richardson urged all departments to collaborate closely in this endeavor, emphasizing the availability of designated contacts for any questions or clarifications regarding the process. The Minister expressed gratitude for the attention given to this matter and conveyed optimism for continued efforts in addressing the financial challenges faced by employees.

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