Minister Emil Lee addresses Labour Day Celebration 2016

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LITTLE BAY – “As Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, I would like to congratulate all workers on this special day. We are gathered here today as a demonstration of appreciation and support for the workers. In reality, in leaving my position as an entrepreneur to become a Minister, I have also recently joined the ranks of the employees by becoming a worker in the Government apparatus, working for the people.

Today, we take time to recognize the special contribution from a few stalwarts. On days like today, it is also an opportunity to stop and reflect on where we are today.

In recognizing the progress that has been made in the field of labour over the years, we need to acknowledge that the creation of meaningful, stable and sustainable employment can only be achieved in partnership. This partnership between business, labour and government must be a partnership built on trust, honest dialogue, and compromise. The labour tripartite is functioning well and is the absolute vehicle for this partnership.

The tripartite is working diligently albeit a bit slowly on coming to a consensus on the proposed changes to the civil code, which will address the abuse of the short-term labour contracts. I have full confidence that the tripartite will arrive at a win-win-win agreement.

We have labour unions that see themselves as integral partners in creating sustainable, secure and rewarding jobs. The unions recognize the undeniable link between the level of education and job security. The union leaders have not only recognized this link, but are actively participating in offering training programs that will increase job security and more importantly provide upward mobility in terms of earnings and career advancement.

But as we take stock in the St. Maarten of today, we also need to recognize that we are in an economy that is demonstrating minimal growth. There is a need to create higher paying jobs.  Youth unemployment is unacceptably high. A highly bureaucratic path to compliance has had a negative impact on compliance in general.

The connection between job security and upward mobility are inextricably tied to the health of our economy and by default the health of our tourism industry. Our tourism economy is clearly not performing optimally. Unstable government has translated into multiple changes in leadership, which have had a devastating impact on our tourism promotional efforts.

The good news is that Minister Arrindell is finally seeing to it that the Tourism Authority is being put into place with funding for promotional activities. Again the formula of cooperation and partnership between government and the private sector is a clear formula for stability and economic growth.

Improving compliance is a very important goal for the Ministry. We are working closely with SZV and other strategic partners to improve compliance.  Once employees saw we were there to educate and enforce…with a cooperative attitude, the staff began to speak to compliance officers about other issues…Street hawkers came to complain.

“Improved compliance is good for everyone. This increased compliance will translate into benefits for everyone. Every job occupied by an undocumented worker is a lost opportunity for local employment. Improved compliance will get these jobs into the system creating employment opportunities for our unemployed.

Undocumented workers are often willing to accept lower wages, thereby putting downward pressure on salaries and illegal employment practices, thereby putting downward pressure on employment salaries and benefits.

For businesses, this will result in a level playing field. Competing against businesses with illegal workers with different cost structure hurts businesses that are compliant. How can one business compete against another business that doesn’t pay taxes?

For workers, this will result in increased opportunities for employment and better quality employment. For government, this will translate into increased revenues. Improved capacity to manage the labor market. So, we will continue with our gentle, but steady effort to improve compliance.

It is both an honor and a pleasure to be here today to share this holiday and commemoration. The only formula for success is through win-win-win partnerships. If labour, “wins” and business and government loses. We all lose.  If business wins and labour and government loses, we all lose. If government wins, and business and labour loses, we all lose.

For this reason, the tripartite has my full support as the correct body to develop a healthy and sustainable environment for all parties to prosper. On Labour Day, I thank the unions and businesses for being vibrant and valued partners.”

(Three persons were honored on Labour Day: Julian Lynch, Curtis Vanterpool, and the late Anadeen Serbony-Matthew.)

(In Photo) From L-R: Minister of Labour Emil Lee, Julian Lynch, Shirley and Solaika Serbony representing Anadeen Serbony-Matthew, Curtis Vanterpool, and President of WICLU Claire Elshot.