photo: Gijs van den Heuvel

KRALENDIJK – The unions on Bonaire united in a demonstration this morning, against the reduction of pensions by 3.5 percent. This reduction is to be introduced as per April 1. Already a reduction by another 12 percent is projected for 2018. Kingdom Representative Gilbert Isabella was presented with a petition, where in caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte is called upon to suspend the reduction.

He has until March 31st to do so. “If we do not receive feedback from the Prime Minister then we will discuss the next step together with our members”, said Union Leader Marcelo Anthony.

Political backing
The protest is an initiative of Usibo, the association of unions for government employees, education and care. However there was also political backing at the protest. The coalition government and the opposition supported the protest of the civil servants.

Civil servants interrupted their regular work to participate in the demonstration. A group of almost 200 persons participated in the protest march to the Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean (RCN).

The petition points out to Prime Minister Rutte that the Netherlands has deviated from the agreements made in 2010, as a result of changing the basic guidelines of the Pension Fund Caribbean Netherlands (PCN). Toezichthouder De Nederlandsche Bank falls under the Dutch system, while the formation of PCN entails the old Antillean guidelines. Therefore, funding for the Caribbean has a much lower coverage ratio. In December it was 77 percent.

As the former General Pension Fund Netherlands Antilles (APNA), PCN should have adopted a market rate of about 2 percent instead of a fixed interest rate of 4 percent. “We found that a financially stable start point was not applied to PCN as promised. As well an eventual recovery plan, other standards and rules for PCN in relation to the pension packages offered in the Netherlands was not applied,” the unions stated. There is a capital deficit of 70 to 100 million dollars.

The Executive and Island Councils unanimously approved a motion last week in which the same arguments were posed, urging the Netherlands to request a postponement by the Bestuurscollege (BC). The BC has already indicated to Dutch Ministers that pensioners on Bonaire will be hit hard by the unequal treatment of PCN.

Kingdom Representative Gilbert Isabella receives the petition from Union Leader Marcelo Anthony (right). Photo: Gijs van den Heuvel

Long term solution
The unions want the pending reduction to be suspended so there is time ‘to seek a long term solution to the external debt of all partners in the new situation’. Isabella said upon receiving the petition that he understood the concerns of the pensioners. “You do not need to convince me, I understand you very well. I will pass on the letter with emphasis on it been addressed directly to the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. He is the minister who negotiates on behalf of the government.”