SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In reviewing 2020 the more than 13.000 households (94% of the households) in St Maarten were confronted with much more poverty, the Sint Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform (SMAPP) said in a statement on Thursday.
“The corona virus was blamed for workers losing their job, for workers having to take salary cuts, for workers having to work and consequently receiving less pay to take care of their families, and for workers having to look for social allowance or an unemployment benefit of 1150 ANG a month!
“In cases won in court by workers, even the judges confirmed that employers, who have imposed unilateral cuts in salaries, were wrong!
“Employers who have been making money for so many years, paying the workers poverty wages, which were not enough to provide their households with a combined household income of at least 5000 ANG a month for them not to be in poverty, a lot of them used the corona virus pandemic to unlawfully dismiss or cut the worker’s salary. Workers who have guaranteed them their profits for years, could count now on business interruption insurance pay out nor on the company reserves!
“The myth that the workers in this part of the Kingdom and their households live in prosperity, this myth has to be exposed as a lie! The reality is that workers and their families in this part of the Kingdom always needed to struggle to survive and to make the ends meet.
“The reality is that workers not to be in poverty, had to work two to three jobs, to face the high cost of living here in St Maarten, the highest cost of living in the Kingdom of the Netherlands!
“In 2020 not only employers, but also our own politicians, as well as the Dutch politicians, used the corona virus as an excuse to impose so-called “solidarity cuts” on the workers in Curacao, Aruba and St Maarten in exchange for liquidity support!
“What did the Dutch government do? They imposed based on proposals of State Secretary Knops financial and non-financial, anti-social conditions on the workers and their families in St Maarten violating worker’s rights and human rights ratified by the Kingdom to be implemented equally throughout the state territory!
“The St Maarten Support and Relief Plan (SSRP) for instance was curtailed by the Dutch government. First our own government came with a Payroll support program for businesses of maximum 80%, whereas in the Netherlands and in the BES-islands, the NOW-business support program is for a maximum of 90%! This 80% maximum pay roll support was later imposed by the Dutch government brought to a maximum of 60% payroll support, forcing the workers to take a 20% salary cut!
“Then our own government came with an unemployment support program of 1150 ANG a month, which is the amount a household need per average every week not to be in poverty!
In addition to the SSRP the Dutch government provided through the Dutch Red Cross food packages.
“Did the Corona virus affect the social protection of the workers and their families in the Netherlands and in the BES-islands? Did the Dutch government impose cuts in the remunerations of the workers in the Netherlands or in the BES islands? Not at all!
“Why the workers in St Maarten could not get the same treatment as the workers in the BES-islands and in the Netherlands? As anti-poverty platform we have been advocating for equal social economic and cultural rights in the Kingdom, since we united the social organizations in St Maarten in this platform!
“Not even when the unions, in defense of worker’s rights and human rights, protested in May and June these racially discriminating Dutch conditions for liquidity support, neither our own politicians, nor the State Secretary Knops and the Dutch government and parliament corrected these violations of our human rights!
“In the press briefing of Wednesday Jan 6, 2021, the Prime Minister made it once more known, that the legislation to legalize the racial discrimination in the Kingdom is on its way to parliament, as a condition to receive the liquidity support for the second tranche!
“The Prime Minister defends the decision to implement the Dutch conditions, instead of claiming our rights to an equal social protection floor in the Kingdom, with all means possible in the State.
“The Prime Minister in so doing continues to promote the racial discrimination of her own workers and families in this country. Instead of defending our worker’s rights and human rights, the prime Minister and the Council of Ministers are arguing and defending the Dutch colonial racial discrimination and human rights violations!
“Will our parliamentarians amend these law proposals not to violate the international labor conventions and the international human rights covenants? Will they collaborate with the Dutch imposed colonial apartheid policy or will they stand up for the people of ST Maarten, as the unions and the anti-poverty platform has been doing?”