Postal workers want clarity on their future

POSTED: 10/7/11 2:29 PM

Prime Minister meets Sluis again today

GREAT BAY/ By Donellis Browne – Post Office workers met Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on Thursday after they walked off their jobs and went to the Government Administration Building “seeking answers about their future.” The employees and their union – St. Maarten Communication Workers Union (SMCU) – are concerned because they were unsure whether New Post Netherlands Antilles would continue to be their employer or they would fall under Postal Services St. Maarten.
New Post Netherlands Antilles sparked the concern when it informed its shareholders that it would cease to carry out postal services in St. Maarten on October 9, 2011, a year after the island became a country and Postal Services St. Maarten, which was established by the five day Executive Council, became the concession holder. The Government of St. Maarten has used several shareholder meetings to request a transition period of three additional months so that Postal Services St. Maarten can be ready to take over the service, but the company has been pressing forward.
“The employees are tired of the runaround and no information on who they will report to as of Monday. The prime minister told us a lot, but very little when we met with her this morning and now we’re waiting on the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting at 10:00 a.m. to see if we can get some clarity,” President of the St. Maarten Communication Workers Union Ludson Evers said.
The union leader said that a recent move by the employees to not accept outgoing mail and downing tools had shown how important the postal service is as people lined up to send mail and packages.
“A country can’t be without a postal service and the government is responsible. In order to have a postal service you have to do your homework and clearly there was no homework done,” Evers said.
Prime Minister Wescot-Williams and the Managing Director of New Post Netherlands Antilles Franklin Sluis will meet again today to try to strike an agreement that the union and the employees are seeking. The meeting was held because of requests by the Prime Minister to the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of New Post Netherlands Antilles. Thursday morning’s meeting also pre-empted a session the Prime Minister wanted to have with the employees.
“On Wednesday evening I called for a meeting of the employees of NPNA to apprise them of the status of affairs. I did this as Prime Minister of the country and responsible for the delivery of service to the people of St. Maarten. However, the workers of NPNA came to the building this morning and I granted them an audience, bringing them up to speed with what was taking place. The meeting therefore at six Thursday evening did not take place. Naturally these workers are quite perturbed about the state of affairs and from what I was told, staged a sit-out at the Post Office for the balance of the day today, Thursday,” Wescot-Williams stated in a release.
She added, “I would like them to know that parties are meeting and an agreement as to how to proceed as of October 10th seems imminent. Of course not all hurdles are cleared yet, but that was not expected in this first meeting. With respect to what is expected of the workers tomorrow Friday, their employer (NPNA) will communicate this to them, directly or through their union.”
Sluis was also positive about Thursday’s meeting and expects a win-win agreement will be agreed and signed that reflects how and when the postal service and concession related matters will be transferred to Postal Services St. Maarten. He’s also rejected the possibility for transferring the money gram and e-zone business to Postal Services St. Maarten.
“Those are agreements with third parties and they can’t just be transferred. It’s not up to us to tell our clients we won’t provide the service anymore,” Sluis said.
The New Post Netherlands Antilles director also sought to downplay the importance of the money gram and e-zone business.
“Roughly 80 to 90 percent of the revenue comes from the postal side of the business. So for example if we reach a gross profit of four million guilders to five million guilders, then three million guilders is from the postal business. Also in the first six months of 2011 the net loss to the business on St. Maarten was between 600, 000 guilders and 700, 00 guilders because we used 200, 000 million guilders from the non-postal service to pay, but you see it’s not that much,” Sluis said.
The New Post Netherlands Antilles does not believe it is up to him to deliver a debt free company partially because very few postal companies continue to operate without getting a subsidy from the government. New Post Netherlands Antilles is one such company. It is also one of the only postal services in the world that pays a concession fee.
Sluis was also clear that the Universal Service Obligation remains with the government and that St. Maarten’s government and its postal company should find creative ways to ensure that postal services are gaurenteed.
“Each manager of a postal service must have their own vision and business model, because money gram is not a huge money generator. Postal companies must concentrate on new models. I will also tell you that we had a technical team that consisted of Martin Hassink and Peggy Ann Brandon and representatives from Curacao and the BES and they came with different scenarios which we presented to Commissioner William Marlin at the time and we had concluded that splitting up the company was a loss, but there were other ideas and just days before 10-10-10 we were informed by letter that St. Maarten had created its own company,” Sluis said.

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