PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Consumers Coalition questions whether the newly-enforced Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA policy will end discrimination against unemployed locals.
The coalition said on Thursday that the recent policy implemented to grant first preference to unemployed local residents prior to approving work permits for foreign workers had been met with fierce protests from organisations like St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA), St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA) and the Indian Merchants Association (IMA).
The coalition questioned the associations’ objections to the new policy. According to the coalition, the VSA Ministry is doing nothing illegal, its objective is only to protect local unemployed residents.
“Based on Article 6 paragraph 1 of the National Ordinance on Employment of Foreigners, the minister can impose conditions to an employment permit pertaining to the efforts that must be exercised by an employer to fill vacancies with suitable candidates from the local St. Maarten market,” said the coalition. “Article 6, paragraph 2 of the same ordinance stipulates that the ministry can detail criteria to exercise efforts in filling vacancies with jobless persons in the local St. Maarten market.”
Coalition representative Raymond Jessurun said, “The ministry argued that unemployment remains alarmingly high in St. Maarten, even though various occupations of the growing pool of registered jobless persons match the vacancies posted by employers in St. Maarten. In other words, employers do not want to employ the unemployed, registered jobless, qualified persons.”
The coalition further questioned why employers are against working together with the designated representatives of the National Employment Service Centre to fill vacancies with suitable persons in St. Maarten. “Why [are – Ed.] organisations protesting and wish to revoke these additional requirements?” asked the coalition.
“St. Maarten is called ‘The Friendly Island’. But it seems that the employers do not want to be friendly towards unemployed residents, but they prefer to be friendly to foreign workers.”
In conclusion, the coalition said the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU) will call an urgent meeting with its affiliated unions to discuss “this discrimination of registered jobseekers and other pressing labour market issues in St. Maarten.”