Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee


PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Emil Lee extends congratulations to the nine former airport security officers; employees of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) who were recently successful in contesting their dismissal in summary proceedings in the Court of First Instance. The process undergone by the former employees is a good example of the use of advisory support and legal aid assistance opportunities offered by the Ministry in addressing disputes between employers and employees.

The role of the Ministry is to provide advisory support to employers and employees on their rights and the labor laws, mediation services for conflict resolution outside of court, and legal assistance to help those that do not have the financial means to obtain a lawyer if they feel their rights have been abused. From October 2016 to March 2017 a total of 28 legal aid requests for labor disputes were granted. When comparing that number with the number of granted legal aid requests for the time period following hurricane Irma, Jose, and Maria ( Oct 2017 to March 2018) this number has quadrupled with a total of 123 legal aid requests granted for labor disputes from .

“These are very challenging times, and it is hard. I have people coming to me daily, on a regular basis that say that they feel that their rights have been trampled on, that their employers are not treating them well. There is clearly a dispute, and I am asked if I can come in.. and intervene. As much as I would love to, it is unfortunately not the role of the minister to get involved in individual disputes. It is the role of the Ministry of course, to create a harmonious working environment and to support both employers and employees. This case is a good example of what the correct process is. And it’s a good example of the role of the Ministry as we look forward to trying to bring our workforce back online and get our economy re-started.” – Emil Lee

The Ministry wants to promote a healthy working relationship between employers and employees. The recommendation is always mediation, dialogue and compromise. These are difficult times for everybody and the recommendation has always been for people to cooperate, talk to each other and find a solution together. That has always been the most amicable way, and is in many cases the most economically beneficial way.

“Although it’s taken a bit of time, that’s exactly what has happened in this case. We’ve tried to mediate the relationship, if that didn’t work, there was always the freedom to go to court. Government facilitated that by giving the ‘weaker’ side of the dispute the legal and financial resources to defend their rights and in this case their rights were upheld in the court of law.” – Emil Lee

In the event that there is a dispute that cannot be resolved through dialogue and communications, there is always the legal avenue. Government can provide the legal and financial resources for employees who cannot afford it, to contract a lawyer and have them defend their legal rights.

“I would like to thank in particular the Department of Labor Affairs, department head Mrs. Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson and staff. Staff has been dealing with their own personal recovery issues in the midst of these very stressful times but regardless I think the Ministry has been doing an excellent job and I congratulate them.” – Emil Lee

Persons seeking information pertaining to labor disputes can contact the Department of Labor Affairs and Social Services via email: labor-affairs@sintmaartengov.org, tel: +1 721 520 5279, or visit the offices at the Bew Government Administration Building located on Pond Island, Philipsburg.