SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Emil Lee announced on Wednesday April 3rd that the policy on incidental labour for construction workers has been amended as per April 1st to ensure that local skilled workers would benefit from upcoming employment opportunities.
After the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria, in anticipation of the increased demand for construction workers, the Ministry of VSA, with funding by the World Bank launched the Skills Training Program offering courses for unemployed or underemployed persons. To date these courses have yielded 80 graduates and another course is presently ongoing with an additional 136 participants of potential future construction workers.
“The reason for the revision of the incidental labour policy is really aimed at striking that balance between assisting the reconstruction process but also ensuring that our people have opportunities to perform. It is certainly Government’s and my perspective that the reconstruction process needs to give local companies and local residents, an opportunity to participate. If the reconstruction process doesn’t translate and trickle down to our people, it is not a true reconstruction process.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA
The original policy was instituted in June 2018 to facilitate the anticipated increased demand for construction workers for the projected reconstruction needs and ultimately the restoration of the island’s economy. The policy facilitated a more flexible procedure given the short supply of qualified construction workers available at the time, on the island to meet the skyrocketing demand.
The amendment as per April 1st would require the employer to prove that sufficient effort was done to source local labour. The Ministry recognizes the need that all graduates of the skills training program get the opportunity to enter the labour market. It is important to note that this policy with or without the amendment does not overrule the general point of departure that if there are workers available on the local labour market, the permit will not be granted.
The amendment in the policy is specific towards securing that enough effort was made and can be proven by an employer to hire local labour:
1) The vacancy must be submitted to the Labour Affairs Department using the appropriate vacancy form at least three (3) weeks before submitting the employment permit request.
2) During the three (3) week period after posting the vacancy at Labour Affairs sufficient effort must be done to source local labour, ie placing of a newspaper advertisement. Copies of which need to be submitted with the employment permit request.
These measures will allow those who have attended and graduated from the training programs and other interested persons on the local labour market the opportunity to apply and obtain gainful employment within this sector. A copy of the revision can be found in the National Gazette of March 29 or on the website sintmaartengov.org.
“The Ministry and Government in general, are faced with challenging times. We have limited resources; we have to find ways to stimulate the economy and we need to also encourage and facilitate the rebuilding process. But of course, we have the responsibility to ensure that our people have opportunities to participate.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA
The construction courses offered under the Skills Training Program of the Ministry of VSA are training programs that are developed and carried out at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) in collaboration with Trinidad based MIC-IT. The Skills Training Program is funded by the World Bank.