Unions press for return on tri-partite barganing

POSTED: 01/31/11 11:51 AM

St. Maarten – Presidents of three labor unions have called for a return of the tripartite bargaining between the government, business sector and unions. The three state the principal of social dialogue “has been put aside” and that it must be quickly resumed in order to deal with the issues pending from the last labor summit that led to an increase in the minimum wage and more that have emerged since then.
The three union leaders were speaking on For The Record with Eddie Williams on Sunday. They all form part of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions, which is currently led by President of the Workers Institute for Organised Labor (Wifol), who is of the opinion that progress has been halted.
“The actions we have seen are not compatible with social dialogue and industrial peace. The problems in labor are extensive so we need to return to the tripartite setting. We are ready. We heard the business sector is ready and it seems that government is the one dragging its feet,” Thompson said
Public Relations Officer for the Windward Islands Healthcare Workers Union Association (WIHCUA) Gregory Arrindell called for the unions to put their resources together and bring divided workers together.
“I need to know that we are standing together,” he said.
WITU President Claire Elshot and Wifol’s Thompson pressed for government to move forward with the items on the inventory list created by the last labor summit. The list includes dealing with short term employment contracts and the conditions under which placement agencies (outsource companies) conduct their business, which are both at play in current labor disputes.
“The unions have been strong forever and will demand that Ceaser be given what is due to Ceaser,” Elshot said.
“There are people in outsource companies that are working 12, 14 and 16 hours per day. We’re going to fight this to the end,” Thompson added.

The body that deals with tripartite bargaining in St. Maarten is the Socio-Economic Council (SER). The Island Council approved its establishment in the run up to the island becoming a country, but the council has not been established yet. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams is on record that she’d try to get the body up and running by the end of January, or by the end of the first quarter at the latest. The law on the SER requires that three members each be named from the social partners – business and unions – and four from government. It is unclear whether the names have been submitted in writing as the law requires so the process of setting up the SER can be concluded.

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