August 23, 2023 -MP Wescot has confirmed that she has been reliably informed that the government of St. Maarten has sent a letter to all government-owned entities regarding their employment policies.
In this letter, the government states that it “recognizes and emphasizes the necessity of hiring locals/Sint Maarteners in crucial roles such as top management positions in government-owned entities”.
The government in the letter continues to ask of the entities If such a policy is in place at these government entities and states that if this is not the case that measures be taken that would “underline the importance of recruiting qualified locals especially for higher level roles”.
“Mind you, the letter does not come on behalf of the Council of ministers, it comes from the Prime Minister and it is copied to the Council of ministers”, MP Wescot stated.
“Having taken note of this communication, the first impression that comes to mind is one of an ill-prepared, ad-hoc decision and more of a knee-jerk reaction than a policy directive by the government, and the first question that comes to mind is whether the government itself has a policy, emphasizing the necessity of hiring locals/Sint Maarteners.”
“Because if they do, I would like to receive this policy and if they do, I would like to know who the government of St. Maarten considers to be a local/Sint Maartener.
In my letter that will go via the parliament to the Prime Minister, I want to know if this determination is done or should be done by birthplace, parentage, residency, nationality, or a combination of any of these”, the MP stated.
“”But if the government does not have this criteria or description, then my question is how does the government recommend that the different entities apply this criteria? Is it going to be left up to them individually to decide who is a local/Sint Maartener?”
Also important to know would be whether the government henceforth will make it clear in government and government related ads that locals/Sint Maarteners will have preference. If this is not going to happen, my question is why not, the MP continued.
Also interesting to know would be whether this letter of the Prime Minister has been sent to government and all other public entities or was it only to government OWNED entities, in other words government companies such as TELEM, GEBE, airport and harbor etc.
“I asked the Prime Minister directly if she does not think that an island-wide initiative led by the government of St. Maarten should have preceded such a random letter to government-owned entities on such an important topic?”
As I think about this issue of St. Maarteners and their position in the labor market and getting opportunities on St. Maarten, I think back of the session that several other MPs and myself had in the Netherlands with St. Maarten students and St. Maarten young professionals. As a clarion call throughout that session was the come back home plea.
“This is a noble call, one that I have made on occasions as well”, MP Wescot concurred.
However this kind of a blanket statement cannot be made expecting results, without looking at the realities of many of especially our young professionals in the Netherlands and elsewhere. They have commitments where they are , they have families, kids going to school, jobs and other commitments, the MP opined.
“I’m asking the government therefore since we are embarking on this trajectory, to consider a hybrid employment/consultant structure for young St. Maarten professionals abroad, meaning that an assignment (the job) can be given to these persons after going through the process of advertising it and reacting to it.
Then the hybrid situation comes in, allowing them -especially where it pertains to consultancy jobs-, to be on St. Maarten for a short period of time to do the necessary, and then the bulk of the work can be done in e.g. the Netherlands, where these young professionals from St. Maarten can continue with their lives and still contribute to helping to build St. Maarten and cutting down on consultants from all over the world.”
It is my view that “our people are just as good, if not better than some whom we have brought from all over. This approach would also minimize issues, such as housing, which we often hear from persons as to why they are not or they can’t come back to their island, if they had to come and seek to settle here permanently. Such an agreement would also allow them to maintain a commensurable level of income.”
“And talking about employment and St. Maarteners and locals in the labor market, I therefore also needed to include the minister of VSA and ask of him if he is aware of this particular letter and directive by the Prime Minister.”
I wanted to know if in the ministry of VSA there is anything regarding the employment of ‘locals/Sint Maarteners’ and if we can find something in that ministry to go by.
“I know that in the ministry of labor, the law requires an effort to be made to place persons from the local labor market in a position before a foreign labor permit is granted for the same position.”
In furtherance of this particular stipulation, the National Employment Service center was mandated to act as a go-between to secure local employment, the MP explained.
“So I think after some time of operation it would be good to know who are the current registered jobseekers, broken down in position, gender and age. How many requests for foreign work permits have been turned into local employment in the past 3 years, for what kind of employment and for what period of time?”
And then I wanted to know whether informative sessions have been held for employees regarding the changes to the labor law, the maternity and paternity leaves , the contract duration, company transfers etc. the MP stated, in a clear reference to the recent changes to the labor laws, which the MP championed in parliament.
In conclusion, the MP stated in her release, “it is unfortunate that something as crucial as this matter, namely local/Sint Maarteners getting a better hand in and a better grip on what is happening on St. Maarten, that it was dealt with in such an adhoc manner; the government throwing it in the lap of the government owned companies and I guess waiting to see what is going to happen. In fact, the government in the same letter I am referring to asked of companies that if such a policy exists in their organization, if this can be provided to the government”.