MP Solange Ludmila Duncan
PHILIPSBURG–National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Solange Ludmila Duncan on Tuesday, submitted questions to Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Richard Panneflek on how objections to decisions regarding unemployment support within the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) are being handled.
“With the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) in its second month of execution, it is no surprise that there have been quite a number of challenges on all ends regarding the many businesses and residents who have applied for financial support from the government,” said Duncan.
The VSA Ministry predicted that approximately 5,000 persons would be unemployed within three months following the lockdown, she said, citing the SSRP website.
“This signifies that there may well have been thousands of requests for unemployment support, especially after numerous employee dismissals or reduced working hours,” said Duncan.
She said she has requested that VSA disclose its policy on labour disputes and complaints that were received in the last two months.
“Although the execution of this unemployment-support task is being handled by the St. Maarten Development Fund [SMDF – Ed.], the Ministry of VSA is responsible for ensuring labour mediation and access to social welfare for residents.
“I have gotten many complaints by residents about abrupt dismissals from companies who may or may not have applied for business payroll support. There are persons who have had their work hours cut – and by extension their salaries – but are not sure if objections are being investigated.
“Effective monitoring and control are quite necessary from each ministry and executing agency involved in the SSRP. I am seeking clarity from the minister on how this is being handled,” said Duncan.
Government designed the SSRP to assist persons with direct financial support, she said.
“When companies receive payroll support, we must also ensure that the rights of their employees and what is owed to them are still respected, and that salaries are paid as they should be. I believe that any inquiries by residents regarding labour dismissals or issues with insufficient salary must be investigated and addressed in a timely manner. Our people’s livelihoods are at stake,” concluded Duncan.
Parliament will sit in an urgent public meeting on the SSRP and its assistance programmes today, Wednesday. While Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Finance Minister Ardwell Irion are expected to be in attendance, Panneflek is not.