Reportedly a meeting last week brought GOA together with union leaders. GOA said its piece, then the FTA, representing some of GOA’s employees, sent back an informed counter-offer.
They did a good job; they are not crazy. This is going to be a long column. The FTA made 32 suggestions and with help from my learned friends, we considered each of the items on its own merit.
But before we start we must ask/say: The Unions should have reserve funds for cases such as strikes and unexpected work interruptions. Why isn’t the Union paying its members? If they have been collecting membership dues, then they must have a built-in reserve!
We would also like to see the FTA’s financial statement; would that be OK??
1.Agreed. All work places should adhere to a strict Covid19 prevention protocol.
2.Granting social foundations and organizations more assistance? This item should be examined case-by-case. Not blindly across the board.
3.All workers previously on payrolls in the private sector are to received 75% of their salaries? If that is feasible, sure, but deeper salary cuts should be made, wherever possible
4.Here, the FTA came up with a salary concept with arbitrary numbers/percentages as a suggestion. BUT, for GOA to lend money to companies so they can pay salaries to workers that are not producing, because there is no work, is a bit insane and counterproductive. Why create a system by which companies go into insurmountable debt?
5.Yes, in the event that employees get paid, AZV and SVB premiums should also be paid, if at all possible.
6.Companies who pay their employees more than 75% of their salaries get a tax credit at that same amount, on future bills? We should be careful with this. It might lower GOA’s income for years to come. And GOA will have to make that up somewhere.
7. Suspend all payments to GOA except AZV and SVB?? NO. Some companies are much less effected by the crisis and can continue to pay their taxes, and should. If you discontinue payments the hole this proposal would create is way too large and unnecessary.
8. Suggesting that banks lend money to companies, to pay their employees, funds they have no real chance to recover, puts savings of many working people, held by the banks, at risk, especially if the money went as a loan to a company already struggling.
9. Defer payments by the banks? This has already been done voluntarily. Also, my learned friends suspect the banks will continue to be flexible and use sound judgement on a case-by-case basis.
10. Good idea: Teach locals via social media, TV and radio how to better manage their money. This is long overdue.
11. Terrible idea. To suggest that every agreement previously made, other than the one suggested by the FTA, is nil and void. If a company has reached an agreement with its workers which ensures its survival and protects future jobs, then that agreement must be respected and honored.
12. This item suggests to cut redundancy and reduce the number of GOA’s consultants by 30%, effective January 2021. My learned friends believe that putting people out of work in these times is irresponsible. Their salaries should be cut and benefits eliminated. And in principle, down the line, the way GOA hires, revised.
13. Reducing all allowances to zero, among public employees, ministers, parliamentarians, directors of GOA’s state companies, is a good idea. This item also suggests a revision in salary scales of all public sector employees which is a giant, much-needed, undertaking. The way this item is worded is very unclear and can mean a million things.
14. The FTA suggest a 10% salary cut across the board, for all public sector employees and we think we can consider a steeper cut. Why are they asking the private sector to take a 25% cut, and allocated just 10% to the public sector?
15. Reduce the rent GOA is paying to privately held real estate in GOA’s service, by 50%. Very good strategy, wherever possible. GOA has been known to rent expensive real estate from political supporters. This has always been a good way of ‘giving back’ to a political alley, at the public’s expense.
16. Serlimar to grant the public incentives, to encourage clients to pay their bills? Shame on you Serlimar for failing to collect. Take a page out of Setar/Elmar/Web book.
17. The smart use of GOA’s employees is recommended especially in the PR sector. FTA suggests, and I applaud the initiative, to revive GOA’s own PR machine, the defunct BUVO, mandating the use of a central PR service instead of each minister and each department employing their own private sector entity. I regularly receive PR pieces from agencies who command fortunes for posting idealized pictures on social media. Drastic reduction? A must.
18. The FTA is asking for directors’ salary reviews. And we say, a thorough review of all organizational charts, at all levels pf public employment not just directors, is required, all salaries and job descriptions from top to bottom.
19. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Former Minister Bermudez came up with a great plan which should be implemented ASAP. The transition from direct to indirect taxes. No MinPres ever had the balls to do it. Maybe the women at the top now, do. This is their chance to do something BIG and lasting for our country.
20. This items talks about raising the ceiling, on income tax, SVB and AZV. It is unclear what the FTA means. Loonbelasting has no ceiling. Besides my learned friends do not agree that the ceiling on premiums should be raised.
21. The FTA states we have 1.6 billion (!!!!!) on the street in uncollected taxes and would like to lower than amount by 30% in the next 6 months, by encouraging people to pay at a discount. Good. Also don’t forget to reward those with a perfect payment record.
And on that same subject: The island should stop workers from sending money to their families abroad. The long lines at Western Union, bleed Aruba of dollars it desperately need.
22. Change our laws to prevent the share-sale of state-owned companies? If executed correctly it can be an excellent source of income.
23. Intensify the availability of Enseansa pa Empleo courses to teach the unemployed new skills. Fantastic initiative.
24. Reopen some employment channels, to jumpstart our stagnant economy especially in construction of a better tourist product, and the improvement of our infrastructure. YES, as long as it is responsible in the sense that it would NOT contribute to the spread of Covid19.
25. Diversify our economy, in sectors outside tourism, food production, fishing, livestock, local products. SURE: BUT as long as our tax system, labor laws, CBA regulations don’t change it will not be attractive to invest here.
26. Allow all online work, with respect to social distancing? Duh, there are no restriction on online work. Of course, social distancing is the new normal.
27. Allow on line teaching, training, to improve our level of service? There are no restrictions on that. The ATA is already conduction My Promise to Aruba online courses, for free-of-charge certifications.
28. The FTA is asking to grant help to those unemployed that are now illegal, assisting in repatriating them to their country of origin now that their source of income dried out. My learned friends agree in kind. asking: Is it humane to just toss those people out after they have contributed to our growth?
29. the FTA requests a special bonus to award essential employees for their diligent contributions during trying times to the tune of a 50% of a month’s salary, bonus. Why? Should people ONLY work during easy times? And be given extra for being lucky enough to have maintained an income?!
30. The FTA asks that monies saved by above measures are to be handed to the Netherlands in payment of their monetary assistance. Self-understood.
31. Monthly review of all measures? Makes sense to remain flexible.
32. If all measured mentioned here FAIL to position Aruba in a more stable social-economic and financial situation, a Solidarity Tax may be introduced, as plan B.
My Learned friends say: Not so fast, let’s see if your plan A is working, must have confidence in your own plan.