PHILIPSBURG — There is a discord between some employees of the Justice Ministry and the unions that represent them. This appears from our exclusive interview with Minister of Justice Anna Richardson.
“I am happy that we could have one-on-one discussions with our staff,” Richardson said. “They want to know where the numbers are coming from. I have heard them say: I do not agree with agreements made by the union. I was baffled when I heard that, because the impression has been created that the unions represent that staff. And now staff members are saying: no, I do not agree with that; and they were never consulted.”
Some staff members get entangled in discussion with politicians, Minister Richardson says. “They tell them: we are going to send this minister home. If this minister is going home, who is going to pick it up and complete it for them? My intention is to fix this matter in the interest of the staff, to make sure that they are fairly compensated.”
The go-slow action at the police force is an expression of the frustration-level among employees of the ministry, and Richardson understands that. The matter of the function book, payment arrears and the legal position of each individual staff member are hot topics that have unfortunately also been drawn into the political arena.
Richardson: “A lot of politics is being played right now and the minister is getting all the heat. I am gonna take that. But there is so much dishonesty coming from people we should be able to respect.”
The minister emphasized that the function book was approved by her and by the governor in 2020 but that it still has to be activated. “That has to go in conjunction with the new police law.”
The placement letters that some have labelled as unlawful, are a first step towards doing right by the staff. Once there is an agreement about their contents, a national decree signed by the minister and the governor will settle the matter.
According to Minister Richardson, her staff has been working throughout the night to get the placement letters ready and delivered. That the process is not going as fast as desired is due to the fact that the contents of each letter have to be verified, based on historic information. There are four staff members allocated to prepare the letters for the 700+ staff members.
Richardson notes that the ministry is not giving preferential treatment to any department. “I am responsible for the entire law enforcement structure. Every agency within the ministry is valued. They all have their roles and their responsibilities.”
While politicians have eagerly jumped onto the bandwagon to have their say about the issues that plague the department, Minister Richardson remains skeptical of their role in parliament. “Nobody brought a motion during the budget debate to allocate more money for the justice workers,” she observed. “Not one.”
The ministry has opened a dedicated email address where staff members can send their objections to the contents of their placement letter. “We received complaints from some staffers who said that they had not received an answer. They are right. We have four people working on the placement letters and that are the same people who have to answer those emails.”
Below you can watch the full interview recording with the minister of justice at your convenience.
In a part three of our review of the interview, we will look further in depth at the following topics the minister talked about during the interview:
Status of the Function Books.
The ratification of the function books, the salary scales and the positions/placements of the justice workers.
The tedious process of determining/calculating the payment each justice worker has to get.
The available money to make the payments. Based on the Covenant with the Unions, payments will be done in terms spread out over maximum 5 tranches. Depending on how much is owed to each worker. The minister also touched on where the rest of the money will come from..
To be continued…. Part 3 – Minister Richardson on the tedious process of how the amounts owed to each justice worker are determined.
Related article: Part 1 – StMaartenNews.com exclusive interview with Minister of Justice Anna Richardson