Published On: Tue, Feb 18th, 2020

Former Minister Emil Lee: “New policies should be based on facts and consultation”

Minister Emil Lee 20190714

PHILIPSBURG – “New policies should be based on facts on consultation with stakeholders such as the labor tripartite and higher councils such as the Social Economic Council (SER),” former Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor (VSA) Emil Lee told stmaartenenews.com in an invited comment about the work permit policy Minister Pamela Gordon-Carty put in place per February 7.

“Everyone should agree that we all want to see our people gainfully employed in rewarding and satisfying employment. I believe we should want to see our people as entrepreneurs creating thriving businesses that employ more people,” Lee said.

But there are ways to achieve such goals, the former minister said. “It has to be done in partnership with stakeholders, labor, employers and government. The new policy seems to have been done without consultations with the various stakeholders, including the labor tripartite and the SER. This goes against ILO-principles of consultation.”

Minister Gordon said on Monday afternoon during a central committee meeting about the work permit policy and abuse of the permit system: “I don’t need data for that. We can see it.

Parliament meeting VSA work permit conditions NESC 1Lee points out that stakeholders have previously agreed on a path to labor reform. This is reflected in the tripartite consensus document that was signed during Lee’s tenure at the VSA ministry back in 2016. “This serves as a solid base for discussions including topics like how to improve the hiring process and increase wages.”

There is a better way to achieve labor market objectives, Lee said: “The easiest way to create more jobs, improve government revenue as well as payments of social premiums is to improve compliance. Every position held by an undocumented person is an employment opportunity for our people.”

But making the permitting process more complicated, as the work permit policy does, is not the answer: “Without addressing the undocumented workers this seems to punish those that are trying to comply with the laws without dealing with others that ignore the laws. Obviously this does not mean that abuse in permitting should not be tackled simultaneously.”

Lee furthermore notes that St. Maarten has “an issue in particular with French companies and residents doing business on the Dutch side without being properly registered. This can be addressed with compliance by various ministries, not just VSA.”

Lastly, Lee questions the practicality of having representatives of the National Employment Service Center sit in on job interviews. “That seems to make things pretty complicated. How will an NESC representative judge in technical or trade professions? How much bureaucracy will this add to the process?”

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