Unions and business organizations meet MPs as workers demonstratePOSTED: 12/7/11 9:39 AM
St. Maarten – Workers who have been barred from their jobs at the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina and the Villas at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina held peaceful demonstrations at both the House of Parliament on Wilhelmina Straat and the Government Administration on Clem Labega Square on Tuesday. Their protests coincided with a meeting at the Parliament Building called for by the United People’s (UP) Party faction. The meeting included representatives of Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions, the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the St. Maarten Timeshare Association, the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association and the Small Business Development Foundation to discuss the labor situation and the need for the tripartite committee to begin functioning.
UP Party faction leader Romain Laville considers the gathering and his commitment to press the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor to summon the first meeting of the tripartite committee. Laville will express his faction’s views to the minister on the need to activate the committee and other concerns raised by participants in Tuesday’s meeting in a letter.
Laville considers it sad that months after finalizing the decree to reinstate the tripartite committee, there has yet to be a meeting. He’s also not happy that there’s not much movement on the establishment of a labor court, which would provide employees a quicker and cheaper recourse than the regular court when they feel they are being treated unfairly by their employer.
“The next move is to get the tri-partite committee functioning. I will include that in my letter to the minister, including the call from the unions for the chair of this committee to be independent and not beholden to government. As a faction we basically feel this was a down payment to put pen to paper. I don’t have all the answers, but I think we need to put our differences aside and look at what is the social responsibility as a community and as business people,” Laville said.
Parties also discussed youth unemployment and tossed around ideas like implementing or crafting incentives for hiring young people. They also looked at short term labor contracts and zoomed in on what industries truly are seasonal, what possibilities exist for a person to be taken into permanent service after a contract period of one year and whether or not people born in St. Maarten should be exempted from any sort of short term labor contract.
The matter of what has happened at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina and the Villas at Simpson Bay Resort & Marina was also part of the meeting. Laville would only state that there was a need for more discussion on that matter. He also refused to come out and call for James to resign as MP, by pointing that even if James was no longer there the issues the workers at the resort face would not be solved.
“What we really need to do now is ensure that this never happens again. We, as parliament, can’t go and overturn any court verdicts, but we can look at the laws and see what we can do in that respect,” Laville said
That message of reviewing and enacting legislation was the precise message that the unions brought to Tuesday’s meeting.
“Our message to parliament is to do what you were elected to do,” Wiclu President Theophilus Thompson said as he predicted that the unions and the MPs from the UP faction would continue meeting on a range of issues.
“This was a venting of feelings of frustration with the system and there may be follow-up and to continue discussions. We have expressed the workers frustration and depending on the actions taken it may be only the beginning of action,” Thompson said.
More specifically Thompson, whose Workers Institute for Organized Labor represents the workers at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina and the Villas at Simpson Bay Resort & Marina, said the resort workers gathered at the Parliament Building and the Government Administration Building to protest the way they are not being allowed to perform their duties. Their frustration on that point was stressed in their demonstration at especially the Government Administration Building, where they pressed especially the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever to “address their plight promptly” as there is no way they could accept being sent home without following proper procedures.
Both of Tuesday’s demonstrations were peaceful events where workers waved signs and spoke with several politicians about their plight. The list includes Laville, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and National Alliance Member of Parliament Hyacinth Richardson who is a former Commissioner of Labor.