PHILIPSBURG – Last Friday, March 10, a multi-disciplinary control was conducted by inspectors from the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance’s Tax inspectors, Ministry of Justice’s Immigration officers, representatives from SZV as well as close cooperation with the representatives from the Ministry of VROMI.
At Wednesday’s, March 15, press briefing Minister of VSA Emil Lee commended the team who carried out the inspections last Friday for their hard work and enthusiasm throughout the day. The team began their inspections from 8:00am to 10:00pm with rotating shifts. The controls included retail shops, timeshare sales people, construction sites, restaurants and bars.
Minister Lee clarified the inaccurate reporting that recently appeared in some of the media outlets. “We did not close any business! If a large percentage of the people operating within the business are undocumented and not permitted to work, the possible consequences are that the business may decide to close because they do not have the manpower to continue its operations, but that is their decision.”
All controls were carried out in a professional and friendly manner. While controls must be carried out while businesses were operational, every effort was made not to disrupt operations however, one of the objectives was to get a realistic snapshot of the operations of the businesses.
The main objective of these efforts is to improve compliance. According to Minister Lee, “I wouldn’t be surprised, based on this one-day initiative, that about 70 employment opportunities for our people was generated, in addition to closing in on the leakages within the economy and identifying possible revenue for tax and SZV.”
Some preliminary findings included: Many employees did not have ID, which is required by law; Many businesses were operating without have the necessary documents at all; Many businesses did not have all necessary documentations on site; Labor Registration; Business License; Operational License (if applicable); Director’s License; Chamber of Commerce; Building permits (if applicable); Copies of the Employment and Residence Permits of the employees; Copies of SZV cards/SZV registration of employees or private insurance registration; Copy of List of Personnel; Work schedule of employees; Overtime Register of employees; French companies operating illegally on the Dutch side; Undocumented and/or unregistered employees; Many French side residents working without work permits and therefore illegally; Amount of time cards on site does not reflect the amount of persons registered with the company; Many businesses employing or employees employed via a job placement agency without the required documents on site.
“These businesses who are operating on the island without following the laws of the land translate into them not paying SZV and/or certain taxes. This is a big gaping hole for the revenue of the country,” stated Minister Lee.
Therefore, the Government remains committed to improving compliance. At the moment, each of the Departments involved are busy processing the information that was gathered on Friday and conducting further investigations where necessary. Next week the different Ministers will meet to have a debriefing session with the inspectors, the Minister of Finance as well as any other Ministers who is interested in joining. At this debriefing, the results of the simple one-day exercise will be evaluated and the team will determine what kind of structural changes can be instituted across Ministries to improve compliance.
Minister Lee urged the business community to become familiar with the laws and become ready with what is expected to be on site if an inspector were to approach your business. Get your things in order, as these controls will only increase. Be proactive about ensuring that all documentation is in place even though the employees are being hired through a job placement agency.
The Ministry of VSA has developed a compliance guide to begin to educate the public about employees’ rights and obligations, as well as those of the employers, particularly, as it pertains to following the laws of the land and what documents and paperwork must be in order before conducting business on our island. These compliance guides are available online at www.ministryvsa.sx. “Be proactive, find out what your obligations are and we will help you comply,” the release said.
Minister Lee stated, “If a business can show that they are making their best effort to comply, the Ministry is open to working with them, however, non-compliance and blatant disregard for our laws will be taken very seriously and persons who are non-compliant can expect measures to be taken.”