“Together we are stronger”; the first steps set towards a joint care collective labor agreement for the BES

ST. MAARTEN – Under the theme ‘Together we are stronger’, the first collective meeting took place on July 27 and 28, 2022, in St. Maarten between employers and unions to arrive at a joint Collective Labor Agreement (CLA) for the health care organizations on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. A first for the BES region!

Employers and employees have wanted to come to this joint CLA for years. In the CLA of the healthcare organizations on Saba and St. Eustatius and the CLA of Fundashon Mariadal (FM), parties have agreed to work towards a joint CLA for which the employment conditions level of FM’s CLA is an important starting point.

In the meeting, the employers and the unions discussed this joint CLA for the first time under the guidance of FWG Progressional People. The employers are Saba Cares Foundation, St. Eustatius Health Care Foundation, St. Eustatius Auxiliary Home Foundation, Fundashon Mariadal and Mental Health Caribbean. The workers affiliated with the unions are represented by Saba United People’s Labor Union and Association (SUPLUA), All for 1 Union Sint Eustatius and General Federation of Boneriaanse Werknemers (AFBW). During the meeting, the employers and the trade unions shared what they each want to achieve with this joint CLA, what the common interest is and what they consider important to successfully complete this process together.

One joint collective labor agreement

All parties see the joint CLA as an important instrument for a properly functioning labor market and for addressing major current HR issues together. Parties have established that these issues can only be addressed effectively if they work together.

Continuing to provide high-quality care to citizens of the Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba is a top priority for all care organizations and unions. This is not possible without sufficient staff who are well trained and motivated. A joint CLA with a good employment conditions package that is the same for all employers is a precondition for preventing competition on employment conditions with all the negative labor market and financial consequences. In addition, this gives the employers the opportunity to better work together to attract qualified personnel.


Reaching the joint framework collective labor agreement requires a great deal from the parties. The framework collective labor agreement contributes to ensuring that high-quality care can continue to be provided to the citizens of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in an effective and efficient manner. It also contributes to improving the income position of employees and thus to reducing poverty on the BES. Last but not least, all parties have expressed their strong support that the current differences in salaries between the islands for the same functions are no longer justifiable.

Currently FM on the one hand and the care organizations on Saba and St. Eustatius on the other hand, have their own CLA. MHC has so far pursued the policy of following the CLA of FM. Both CLA’s already have many similarities. One of these is that in both CLA’s use the FWG system as the basis for the salary structure, just as in the Dutch healthcare situation. But where the positions are objectively weighted in the same way, the salaries are different. Parties to the joint CLA want to end this inequality. Next to the fact that there is no justification for this, it also hinders the exchange of employees.

The two current CLA’s will both expire at the end of this year. Parties therefore want to realize the first joint CLA as of 1 January 2023. The negotiations will start at the end of this year. In addition to a part that is the same for all organizations, the CLA will also contain a part that focuses on the organization and island-specific characteristics.

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