Opinion: Know your labor law

POSTED: 04/3/14 4:20 PM

Dear editor,

It is remarkable to see that the various inspectorates of the department of Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) continue to have difficulties to fully understand the laws of St. Maarten.

Not so long ago, the Court in First Instance ruled that the Inspectorate of Health wrongly imposed supervision measures on the Medical Center. Now it is the turn of the Inspectorate of Labor to not accurately inform the public about the impact and scope of the Labor Regulation. The press statement of March 31st, 2014 of the Inspectorate reads as follows:

“Our statistics have indicated that (…) non-compliance with the Labor Regulation has become one of the most common violations. The lack of visible work schedules and overtime registration play a major role in this. The amount of anonymous complaints pertaining to non-compliance with the Labor Regulation that is filed at the Inspectorate has also increased. The persons making these complaints clearly state that they wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

In the context of “decent work” and “putting the people first” it is important to inform all stakeholders about the rules and the consequences in case of non-compliance with the Labor Regulation.”

What the Inspectorate however does not say in this press statement, is that the articles of the Labor Regulation do not apply to any 6 day-working employee who earns over 42,705 guilders gross per year or any 5 day-working employee who earns over 51,220 guilders gross per year. If the Inspectorate had looked at article 3 of the Labor Regulation it would have read that the Labor Regulation does not apply to employees whose gross annual income is over 260 times the day wage as mentioned in article 8 (2) of the Ordinance of Health Insurance (“Landsverordening ziekteverzekering”). This article 8 in turn refers to the article that mentions the day wages.

The rationality of the legislator must have been that the most vulnerable employees need to be protected by law no matter what and that above a certain amount of income the contracting parties could negotiate or bargain collectively about the labor conditions. As long as the law caps the annual income, the Inspectorate should not wrongfully suggest that the Labor Regulation applies to every labor contract.

Having said that, I truly hope that the Inspectorate will properly use its authority to fiercely tackle abuse and help with the betterment of the labor conditions without going through the painful lesson that its co-inspectorate of health had to learn.


Wim van Sambeek


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