SHTA criticizes “amateurish” move to alter public holiday

POSTED: 05/6/16 8:43 PM

Also annoyed about hurricane pass decision

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) is upset with the government about two issues: the decision to exclude business owners and hotel staff from hurricane passes and the last-minute decision to make May 3 a national holiday.

The SHTA learned last week Thursday around 6 p.m. through social media about the decision to change the public Carnival holiday from Saturday April 30 to Tuesday May 3.

“Two scenarios come to mind,” the SHTA-board said in a statement. “The first one is that this was a politically motivate decision in an election year to gain favor with the electorate. The second one: Jouvert was so good that we want to extend the party over an even longer 4-day weekend.”

Then SHTA wants to know why the decision was made at the last minute and not, for instance, by April 1 or at the beginning of the Carnival. The board is asking Minister of Finance Richard Gibson for his take on the economic impact on lost revenue due to the additional day of closure for businesses.

“What is the impact or what are the repercussions in regards to the labor laws and collective labor agreements since businesses by law cannot change employee-schedules on such short notice? What is the take of the minister of labor on this?” the SHTA-board asks.

The board furthermore asks about the impact of switching a public holiday from a Saturday to a Tuesday, “when most government offices should be open to conduct the people’s business.” The SHTA wonders whether the government made an analysis of lost productivity and against asks for a comment for the minister of finance.

A most interesting question is about the authority of the Council of Ministers to give people a day off. “Based on what law does the Council of Ministers have the authority to grant our employees an extra day off? We can understand it if they give their employees an extra day off but we wonder whether they can do the same for ours.”

On a rather cynical note, the SHTA is also prepared to look on the bright side: “We could calculate how much we save when the government is not working; does this mean they have one day less to squander funds?”

On a more serious note, the SHTA says that it would like to see the country get back to business. “Decisions of this amateurish caliber will likely be remembered far longer than the strides the government had made with regards to passing a balanced budget that was even approved by the Cft.”

The decision by the government to exclude business owners and hotel staff from hurricane passes has also triggered an angry reaction from the SHTA-board.

The SHTA is very surprised and disappointed at this news; obviously the hospitality and marine sector were purposely excluded, though in recent years those were the sectors with precisely the most damage and although these sectors provide a vital service to our economy,” the brief statement read. “If we cannot take care of our clients and assets in emergency situations we will not have clients in the future to assist. We hope this decision can be revised to better meet the needs of the wider community.”

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