Parliamentarians want more controls and labor market demographics

POSTED: 10/26/11 11:41 AM

Second Vice President of Parliament Patrick Illidge confers with MPs from the National Alliance faction about the date to continue deliberations with the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever on the labor situation. This is the first time Illidge has chaired a meeting of the full parliament. 


“The abuse of those contracts is an abomination”

St. Maarten – Increasing controls on the labor market, whether or not people who got residence permits under the Brooks Tower Accord program can get a work permit and the makeup of the labor force were the major points in round one of the deliberation between Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever. The meeting stands adjourned until November 2 at 2:00 p.m. because the minister needs to provide answers to a litany or questions.

National Alliance Member of Parliament George Pantphlet opened the discussion believes immigration has a big effect on the labor market and that a presentation of the demographics will reveal that there are more non-nationals working in St. Maarten than there are nationals. Pantophlet also wants the minister to explain about the labor register, whether employers are legally required to hand out pay slips and the data on applications for work permits. The latter has some sub-concerns included what happens if government does not respond on time and who should pay the processing fee.

“I don’t think it is right that government can get away with not answering on time, but people are made to suffer when they don’t respond to government on time. Also as far as I know the employer has to pay the processing fee for the work permit, but we’ve heard from people who have to borrow in order to pay the fees. How can we control this, because I think it is abuse,” Pantophlet said.

National Alliance MP Hyacinth Richardson spent all his time asking questions about demographics, permit requests, approvals and denials, whether there’d been any labor safety controls this year and if businesses had been fined and how government was tackling youth and adult unemployment.

National Alliance MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson queried further on the controls by asking the minister to state which departments and ministries are involved, how often the controls are done, how enforcement of the law was going and what fines have been levied. L. Richardson also expressed concern about the demographics among the unemployed by querying the unemployment rate of nationals versus non-nationals.

“This concerns me because during my campaign exploits many of the people who approached me about needing employment brandished their little red passports. Can we somehow give preference to Dutch passport holders over legal residents and illegals when we’re matching people with jobs,” the National Alliance MP said.

Dr. Richardson was also concerned about the fact that the Social and Sickness Insurance does not cover the family and dependants of card holders. He’s suggested that a remedy for this is the establishment of a sliding scale insurance that migrants can pay into. The premiums for this fund would be higher than those of the SZV. Once the person is able to have their family and dependents registered as living here illegally, they’d then be able to take advantage of the same premium as others who are paying into the SZV.

National Alliance MP Louie Laveist asked the minister whether he’d reviewed the faction’s draft amendment to the Civil Code, which aims to reduce the abuse of short term labor contracts by establishing that people in permanent employment should be granted permanent employment.

“The abuse of those contracts is an abomination,” Laveist said.

When it comes to unemployment Laveist wants a detailed breakdown that includes the age, gender and category of employment. He’s also asked the minister to present his views on the minimum wage and to give detailed updates on the various areas outlined in the labor policy he crafted as a member of the Executive Council. That last request drew one combined statement and question from Democratic Party faction leader.

“I want the minister to tell me how many labor policies we have on the books and I hope the labor policy that my colleague is speaking of is not the one that was ripped asunder on the campaign trail. So the minister needs to state which labor policies he is following and when they were made,” R. Marlin said.

Independent Member of Parliament Frans Richardson had several concerns and asked the minister to explain whether or not he’d be able to grant people who got residence permits under the Brooks Tower Accord a work permit because the law states that people who are living here illegally are not allowed to get a permit. The minister is not allowed to deviate from this provision.

F. Richardson also wanted to know if companies were being treated favorably be the Labor Department in disputes with employees. He also expressed his lack of enthusiasm about the presence of job placement agencies.

“These employment agencies are destroying the fabric of our society and becoming the root of a problem,” the independent MP said.

He’d later question how the minister viewed the fact that companies hired people near retirement who are not able to build up their contributions to the pension fund and sickness insurance to the point where they can get full benefits.

National Alliance leader William Marlin also wanted to hear the minister’s view on the draft amendment to the Civil Code and said that the party is seeking to reduce the abuse of the contracts because there is “no way to stop it for 100 percent.” Marlin also asked about the bogus companies referred to in the report issued by the Brooks Tower Advisory Committee. He ruled out the employment agencies but made it clear that he believes that there are individuals serving as middle men in certain sectors and that there are people who have companies on paper with a name and letter head who lie and say people work for them, when in reality they don’t.


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