VSA relaxes one-time work permits for reconstruction

PHILIPSBURG–The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA has been taking several actions in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria to ensure that local job seekers are included in job opportunities that arise as a result of the country’s current reconstruction process.

The Labour Affairs and Social Services Division has conducted a national registration drive to assess the immediate availability of skilled persons on the local labour market. The registration drive yielded mixed results, but by and large provided evidence that there are insufficient skilled laborers on the local labour market to meet the demand for skills in several industries, primarily the construction industry.

“There are several programmes in place that offer a combination of job-training and paid employment as part of the reconstruction projects within several industries’ institutions locally. Job-seekers have the opportunity to learn new skills and join new trades.
“We have been working together with institutions such as the White and Yellow Cross, NIPA, and have also sent several persons abroad to Trinidad for training. However, this is not enough, as larger reconstruction projects require, for example, skilled construction personnel, electricians, etc. The local market alone may not be able to meet these needs.

“The Ministry encourages these employers to host registration drives and training programmes, in order to make the extra effort to employ local labourers. We want to ensure that all is done to include our people,” said VSA Minister Emil Lee on Wednesday.
The Ministry’s Labour Affairs and Social Services Division looked at the National decree containing general measures on the employment of foreign labour AB 2013 nr 73 article 7 paragraph 3. This allows the Ministry to approve an employment permit on a one-time basis for projects related to the reconstruction.

“The idea is that we would be able to give one-time permits for people that are participating on a project basis for the reconstruction of a particular project. This measure would not only be considered for construction workers, but other trades as well.
“We believe that we are striking a balance between stimulating the recovery process while protecting our local labour market. We do not expect that persons will remain in the country once the project is complete, it is important that we protect our local labour market.” Lee said.

This relaxation will be done on exceptional terms only and the applicant (employer/business owner) must comply with the following requirements to facilitate the processing of the permits under these conditions:

– Valid labour registration, registration of the business on
www.jobopportunity.sx (note that based on the position outline, the Ministry may opt to waive the five-week hold for positions that are directly required within the reconstruction process).
– Completed employment permit application form and overview of education.
– Payment of all taxes of the business.
– Payment of the applicable processing fee to the Government of St. Maarten.
– Statement of guarantee of housing for the non-nationals signed off by the registered owner of the business.
– Copies of passports of non-nationals tied to the project.
– Copies of flight itinerary.
– Copies of certificates, diplomas and qualifications .
– Certified English translations of the above point by a legally registered translator, if document not in English.
– The credentials of the legally registered translator.
– Complete project plans, mentioning duration of the project.

“The Ministry has the option to waive the five-week holding period for positions that are directly needed within the reconstruction process. We continue to stress that it is important for employers to try all avenues to recruit local workers, but we also want to work together towards ultimately stimulating the recovering economy.

“It is also important that the housing market is not distorted by incoming foreign workers. We already have a very limited housing capacity and we do not want to see unfair competition within the rental market which would have adverse effects for locals seeking affordable housing. This is an important topic of discussion that must continue when foreign workers are being brought in,” Lee said.

Once all the documentation is submitted by the applicant, the ministry will try to process the permits within a 10-day period. The ministry is very sensitive to the fact that if it does not respond quickly, that would impact the supply of labour available for the construction process and so the ministry is committed to doing whatever it can to facilitate the process in an efficient manner for all.

Lee also said that VSA will continue with the initiatives and programmes already in place to train locals in the reconstruction trades to ensure that they can participate in the reconstruction economy.

Persons are encouraged to apply online via
www.jobopportunity.sx and attend the organised job fairs to get access to employers who are seeking local workers and those with residence permits.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/76899-vsa-relaxes-one-time-work-permits-for-reconstruction