PHILIPSBURG–The Consumers Coalition and St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform on Thursday questioned whether government is hunting undocumented workers in the country or whether they are pursuing delinquent companies.
The Coalition’s comment was based on the recent control on two construction companies operating at the Alegria Hotel site in Beacon Hill, who received “hefty fines” after all their workers were found to be undocumented during a control by a multidisciplinary team on Friday, August 9. A total of 20 undocumented workers, who had been in service at the two companies at the time were controlled and were found to be working illegally and had no insurance. The workers were registered by the Immigration Mobile Unit and were given the obligation to report to the department on specific dates.
“Instead of hunting to sanction undocumented persons who are providing their labour under discriminatory conditions, is not it better for government to provide the contractors with opportunity to comply with all the laws and legalise their workers employed and paying whatever fees, premiums, etc. not paid?” Coalition and Platform representative Claire Elshot said at a press conference on Thursday.
Elshot questioned the motive of having the workers report to Immigration Department. “What is the intention of (having the workers report to) the Immigration Office – to punish the workers for not having a work permit and for not having insurance? Is it the intention of immigration to arrest them and fill the Simpson Bay detention centre for undocumented persons or is it the intention of immigration to coordinate with the Ministry of Labour to have the contractors legalise these workers to finalise the work on the Alegria project?
Regarding the fining of the two construction companies she said: “We understand that these employers get a fine for violating the law… Does the government expect these contractors to continue on the Alegria project? Will the government provide these contractors with documented unemployed workers or will the government provide these employers with the opportunity (apart from the fine) to pay all the necessary fees, permits and premiums for the workers to finish the construction project?” she asked.
“Maybe it is a suggestion that government can consider. Can government provide the building permit with a construction project with conditions such as all the necessary conditions not to violate the laws of the land? What are preventative measures and assistance government or corrective measures which can be taken to provide these contractors and construction projects with the opportunity not to be sanctioned but to comply with the laws of the land?” she asked.