SER issues negative advice to former Minister of Labor on Counterpart policy in 2013.

SER employee that wrote the report being victimized and terminated for penning the report on behalf of the SER board.

PHILIPSBURG:— The Social Economic Council (SER) once chaired by Rene Richardson issued a negative advice to former Minister of Labor and Social Development and now Member of Parliament Cornelius de Weever on October 22nd 2013 on the implementation of the Counterpart policy the then Minister wanted to implement.
According to the advice the SER clearly states back then that the department of statistics indicates that the unemployment rate was 11.5% among youth between the ages of 15 -24 years at 27.7%. They further stated in the advice that the department of labor tried to change the pattern by implementing some strategic changes such as the SEI project and adult training programs for unemployed Dutch citizens.

The SER even pointed out that the Department of Labor recognizes the dynamic mechanisms within the work permit section where strong statistical data points to the labor market consisting of no-nationals holding positions in top organizations and businesses yet having minimal secondary academic education. The department of labor also indicated that the placement of Dutch nationals have been improving in partnership with the businesses therefore immediate implementation of the counterpart policy was not required.
The SER referred to the National Ordinance on Foreign Labor that was drafted and implemented in 2002 where the rules relating to employment by foreigners has restrictive admission policy for migrant workers by determining that a foreigner is only eligible for a job on St. Maarten when there is no skilled local candidate available. The SER also indicated that in 2003 another policy was drafted to combat the influx of foreign labor and again in 2009 a new article was added to the executive order “the so called counterpart article.

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In their advice they listed the requirements that are needed for a foreigner to obtain a working permit, therefore they advised that that strict compliance on the foreign labor policy be adhered to and thus article 10 the counterpart article should be revised since the National Ordinance on Foreign Labor prohibits anyone from working on St. Maarten without the necessary employment permit. Also an employment permit could be granted with restrictions, and violations of the articles laid down in the National Ordinance on Foreign Labor is a punishable offense.

One of the points the former Minister raised in is request to the SER is that there foreigners holding top positions without proper secondary education. The SER made clear that the counterpart policy is the wrong policy to solve such problems since work permits are only issued when there is no suitable candidate locally.
The SER concluded that proper implementation of the National Ordinance on Foreign Labor and enforcement of the laws can curb the influx on foreign labor without the counterpart policy.
The SER insists that proper controls and implementation of the existing laws could curb the influx of foreign labor while they also recognize that the counterpart policy is intended to raise employment opportunities for locals.
They asked if proper surveys were conducted to determine the exact percentage of the unemployment rate, based on age, gender and place of birth. The SER further indicated there is no specific proof of the amount of unemployed Dutch youths, further to that there is no data to show the skills, education and profession  if the unemployed youths. The SER stressed that unless proper research is conducted it would be unwise to implement the counterpart policy, and if there is no qualified Dutch nationals to fill the vacancies then St. Maarten is facing challenges in educating its nationals and suffers from a “brain drain.” Further to that they stated that it cannot be expected that employers should bear the additional costs especially when the consequences is an omission on the part of the government of St. Maarten.
The SER also suggested that more training and education should be provided for locals in order for them to fill the gap in the job market.

The SER further suggested short term solutions such as tax breaks for employers who would employ unskilled local youths and provide on the job training.

THE SER in its conclusion made clear that the implementation of the counterpart policy will drastically harm especially small businesses through double labor costs
Since they would have to pay two persons for the same job. The SER also advised the former Minister to revise several other articles in the Foreign Labor Ordinance in order to curb the influx of foreign labor.
Even though the advice was given by the Social Economic Council to the former Minister it is alleged that the employee who penned the advice has since been victimized to point where he has been fired by the SER due to certain political influence. That employee has taken the SER to court and the outcome of that court case will soon be made known.

Source: St. Martin News Network SER issues negative advice to former Minister of Labor on Counterpart policy in 2013.

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