SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams: “Where does this National Employment Service Center fit in the legal organization of the country? The announcement by the VSA Minister regarding her policy relative to foreign work permit applications is reason to query government’s modus operandi, as this comes across as a hasty and uncoordinated decision.”
The organization of the country St. Maarten is regulated by national ordinance. According to that ordinance the Ministry of VSA consists of amongst others, the Department of Labor, responsible for policy. In addition, the VSA Ministry has a so-called implementation agency (uitvoeringsorganisatie), that is responsible for execution, called Labor Affairs.
“Is this just the name given to that operating arm of the labor ministry or is this a new organization to be created? Is the plan to outsource the tasks of this agency as outlined in the minister’s policy announcement? The name would suggest this is something new.”
The task of this National Employment Service Center seems to be quite extensive as it is supposed to among others, participate in all employment interviews. How effective can that be?
While it is the duty of the ministry to “promote the provision of sufficient employment” for our citizens according to our Constitution, the question is exactly how? It is also the minister’s responsibility to execute the foreign labor ordinance and I want to commend the minister for her efforts in this regard. This ordinance is clear. Foreign work permits only for jobs, for which local labor is not available, MP Wescot explained.
“I have doubts however that the way the minister is proceeding with this execution to secure local employment will have the effect that the minister is envisioning.”
I draw his conclusion because 1) As I mentioned, how is this National Employment Service Center organized, within or outside of the VSA ministry? How will it be staffed?
In addition to that, what I miss from the minister’s announcement is consultation with the tripartite consultative body of labor, business and government. Especially where labor matters are concerned, if the government of St. Maarten really wants durable buy-in by the labor and business sectors, they will have to be involved.
One will recall that not too long ago, the Ministry of VSA indicated that they will be consulting stakeholders with respect to the changes to the Labor Book in the Civil Code. These changes included the amendments by members of parliament respectively Tamara Leonard and me in the areas of maternity and paternity leave as well as short-term labor contracts and transfer of business. I am still awaiting these consultations.
On the matter of the National Employment Service Center and the policy for foreign labor permits, what is also not evident from the minister’s statement is the data based on which the minister has taken the decisions that she has taken.
“In 2018, upon my request the Ministry of VSA provided information regarding the unemployment situation on St. Maarten to Parliament. ‘In the year 2018, 472 new registrations for unemployment were registered.’ The question at this time is, how is that picture now, also taken into account the emergency training and income program as financed via the TF. Has this added to our unemployment or has this helped lower unemployment? By the minister’s own admission in January: “…. it is clear that further analysis of the labor market and the employment situation is required.” The government admitted at the time that the employment data of the Labor Department and the results of the labor survey could not be corroborated. According to the government, ‘..we have a reported 6636 unemployed according to the 2019 Labour Survey.’
These are some of the questions that officially will be submitted to the minister to receive more information regarding the Ministry’s new policy on handling requests for foreign labor.
“Finally, I query whether a policy of this nature should not have awaited the incoming minister of VSA. In any case, I look forward to the further elucidation on the National Employment Service Center.”