Letter: Fighting unscrupulous employers

POSTED: 06/5/12 11:50 AM

Dear Editor,

Kindly allow me some space in your paper to vent a bit of the frustration on behalf of the ordinary men and women of St. Maarten for what they endure in trying to make life here on St. Maarten. I do so, being cognizant of the recent change of government and what it portends for the drastic and deliberate change that will be realized when the working class eventually decides to rid itself of the pressures associated with eking out an honest living on this island.

In simple language, the treatment of workers on St. Maarten by many employers is downright horrible. Needless to say, the despicable manner in which the Pelican issue has been handled by those who possessed the power to intervene has given companies and their assertive attorneys an assurance that they can dictate the direction of the labor force on St. Maarten.
Yet, the treatment experienced by the Pelican workers is not unique. On a daily basis, employees across this land are abused and exploited by employers who wield tremendous power in political circles. It all goes back to campaign financing – power hungry politicians selling themselves to unscrupulous business people to win political favor.
In so doing, money that could have been used to improve the social lot of workers is channeled into political campaigns. In reflection for their expenditures business owners expect and are even guaranteed and receive all kinds of favors, including protection in the most unlikely of places, much to the detriment of taxpayers.
Thus, employees, including unsuspecting party supporters, are made to pay the price for political greed. Employees are being pawned by the politicians because there are insufficient guidelines for employers to follow. There are too many loopholes and grey areas in the labor regulations to be exploited and when recommendations are made to address these, they are either postponed or watered-down in favor of the employers.
The issue of the minimum wage is often referred to, but never addressed. Workers in the private sector must face increased cost of living, while salaries remain the same, because employers apply the regulations as it suits them. At the same time, the worth of specialized labor is devalued by employers importing laborers to perform functions that were previously done by locals.
Compounding this is the demoralizing notion that some politicians have shares in companies that continue to abuse workers. Where are the relevant authorities in this? Lip service is given to labor rights and consumer protection, but the consumers foundation is paralyzed, if alive.
Spasmodic media releases and occasional correspondences are a far cry from the stashing of standard guidelines and recommendations to adequate consumer protection. As for the implementation of and adherence to that, this is already on the books. The Minister of Justice and that of Labor need to work in closer collaboration in order to protect the working class from the kind of abuse we see taking place.
In the absence of this kind of protection, unions must engage the services of legal professionals to safeguard the rights of members. The fight against unscrupulous employers must and will continue.

Mr. William Reed

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