Minister Lee: We are taking compliance seriously

Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee


PHILIPSBURG – In Wednesday’s, March 15, Council of Ministers Press Briefing, Minister of Health, Labor, and Social Affairs Emil Lee elaborated on the controls his Ministry conducted on businesses on the Dutch side last Friday.

“We conducted a multi-disciplinary control. This was a multi-ministerial cooperation. The team that went out last Friday comprised of Inspectors from Labor, the Ministry of VSA, labor inspectors with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance, tax inspectors with the assistance of the Ministry of Justice, immigration officers as well as representatives from SVB,” Minister Lee stated.

This included cooperation with other departments like VROMI, which is in the process of helping to produce a detailed map of the Dutch, “so that we can literally map out a door to door campaign in terms of how we’re moving forward with compliance.”

Minister Lee clarified that contrary to statements in the media, that businesses had been closed, “I want to state for the record that we did not close any businesses. The reality is though when the business operates, and if a large percentage of the people operating within the business are undocumented and not permitted to work, and if the consequence is that the business decides to close its doors because it doesn’t have the manpower to continue its operations, as a consequence of us following through with our activities, but not that we directly have closed any businesses.”

He commended the team, which worked two shifts from 8:00am till10:00pm. “A lot was learned by the exchange. Control started in the morning in Phillipsburg in particular, retail shops, as well as OPCs or some of the timeshare salespeople that you see operating on the streets within Phillipsburg,” he said.

Then construction sites, restaurants and bars were controlled. According to him, “Just a simple one-day control, I believe that we’ve generated around 70 employment opportunities.”

“I believe also that there was an opportunity for government now to collect on tax revenues and certainly for SVB to collect on revenues. We mentioned some time ago in the newspaper that they had 200 million guilders out on the street,” Minister Lee said.

“The plan is that each of the different ministries are going to process the information that we gathered on Friday. They’re going to investigate further. Some of them are conducting interviews with some of the people that were controlled last Friday, and the plan is next week to have a debriefing session including Minister of Finance, and any of the other ministers who want to join and look at really understanding what were the results of what happened from a simple one-day exercise, and what kind of structural changes can we institute across ministries to improve compliance,” the Minister continued.

Some preliminary findings of the control were, employees with no ID; many businesses not having all of their proper documentation on site; some of the construction sites didn’t have building permits or any of the things, including a Labor Registry business license, operational license, Director’s license, Chamber of Commerce documents. Some persons were operating as companies, but were operating with incomplete documentation; French companies that are operating on the Dutch side; French nationals or people with documentation to live on the French side, but without documentation to work on the Dutch side; and a number of undocumented and unregistered employees, just to name a few.

“So you need to get all of your documentation in place,” the Minister warned.

“I also recognize it’s a small community. News spreads very fast. As we were controlling one end of Front Street, reports were on the other ends of Front Street people were vacating Phillipsburg. Same thing when we were controlling construction sites and one neighborhood and other sites, people were going into the bushes. Certainly gives an indication that there is a large problem and a problem that we are committed to addressing,” Minister Lee observed.

“Our goal is to improve compliance and I think this is a multi-pronged approach. We have a number of compliance guides as we conduct our compliance trips. We will continue to amend this and make sure that any documentation that’s missing is included and updated, so there is an educational approach. I suggest you go to the Ministry’s website,” he said.

These guides are available online. There’s a compliance guide for employers and for employees. “We also understand that this is a situation that has evolved over many years, so we are also taking an approach of one of assistance. If people are trying to be compliant, but they don’t know what to do, if they don’t know what are the laws, contact the different departments,” Minister Lee continued.

“So regardless of your legal status you are obligated to pay your taxes and your premiums to SVB. However, if you have just a flagrant disrespect for our laws and for our needs as a country, then you will find that the controls will continue and the measures will become more stringent,” the Minister stressed.

“We are planning on controlling all businesses eventually. We are taking compliance seriously. We are working across ministries to make sure that there is an improvement in compliance,” Minister Lee concluded.