Published On: Wed, Jan 16th, 2013

Meteorological Service in stormy weather

WILLEMSTAD – The Meteorological Service of Curaçao is seriously short-staffed since October 2012. The service, which is operational 24/7, currently works with a crisis schedule. Eight new employees are needed to guarantee a healthy continuity. Director of the Meteorological Service, Albert Martis, stated the situation with the work force is meanwhile becoming a burning issue. “I currently have six employees, who work day and night. We have a three shift system because the service is operational 24/7. We work with a minimum work force in a crisis schedule. Five people are constantly at work and one employee can then take a day off. This is a minimum buffer in connection with days off, but we face a problem is someone calls in sick. We’ve been operating this way since October 2012. The current personnel will encounter problems if this goes on much longer. This schedule is simply killing.”

Director Martis stated the service needs eight new people to guarantee a healthy continuity. “Mind you, I’m only talking about the meteorologists. I actually also need someone to support the management.” From the beginning (with the dismantlement of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010) the service requested the government department Personnel Affairs to start with three or four new meteorologists who will follow an internal training. “Then we need another three or four to counterbalance the ageing issue and to guarantee continuity. However, something has got to happen eventually. I closely follow the developments, know exactly where ‘a certain document’ is in the pipeline, and will continue to actuate the case.”

The personnel problems at the service had already been charted after 10-10-’10 and the service kept pressing for a solution but things have only become more difficult since the instruction was issued last year. The collapse of the Schotte-cabinet, the installation of the interim-cabinet of Betrian and subsequently the task-cabinet of Hodge haven’t helped to solve the situation at the Meteorological Service.

“It isn’t easy to find new people and hold on to them once you do. The permission to employ people runs through Personnel Affairs and the Council of Ministers. We had started the procedure but this was halted when the instruction was issued. Three people have meanwhile retired. Their contracts couldn’t be renewed just like that owing to the instruction. As service we’ve been given a ‘critical function’ and are allowed to renew these contracts – irrespective of the instruction – but Personnel Affairs and the Council of Ministers are first to approve the renewal of these contracts. Our service could certainly use the help of these pensioners and I can’t employ people yet because that request must first be converted to an advice and then presented to the Council of Ministers. So for the time being we make shift with what we have.”

However, the director of the Meteorological Service hasn’t given up hope this year and will keep a finger on the pulse. “In any case, I’ve a meeting with Minister of Traffic, Transport and Regional Planning, Earl Balborda (PNP), this week. In this meeting I will in any case raise our personnel problem once again and then hope something will happen”, said Martis.

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