PHILIPSBURG–Government has amended the incidental labour policy for construction workers as of April 1, to ensure that local skilled workers would benefit from upcoming employment opportunities.
The amendment was announced by Minister of Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA Emil Lee during the Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday.
According to Lee, the amendment is to ensure that enough effort is made and can be proven by an employer to hire local labour. The amendment stipulates that employers must now submit their vacancy to the Labour Affairs Department using the appropriate vacancy form at least three weeks before submitting an employment permit request.
During the three-week period after posting the vacancy at Labour Affairs sufficient effort must be done to source local labour, such as placing of a newspaper advertisement. Copies of which have to be submitted with the employment permit request. “These measures will allow those who have attended and graduated from the training programmes and other interested persons on the local labour market the opportunity to apply and obtain gainful employment within this sector,” Lee said. 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,” Lee said.
The Minister said 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 a Skills Training Programme 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 construction courses offered under the Skills Training Programme of the Ministry of VSA are training programmes developed and carried out at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) in collaboration with Trinidad based MIC-IT. The Skills Training Programme is funded by the World Bank.
“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,” the minister said.
The original policy was instituted in June 2018 to facilitate an 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 1, would require employers to prove that sufficient effort was done to source local labour.
Lee said the Ministry recognises the need that all graduates of the skills training programme get an opportunity to enter the labour market. The 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 a permit will not be granted.