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Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

Wednesday,April 26, 2006 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, N.A.

Minimum wage increase without flexibilisation of labour laws

PHILIPSBURG--The St. Maarten Executive Council hopes to persuade the Central Government to approve an increase in the minimum wage in St. Maarten to NAf. 7.79 without making the dismissal law more flexible.

Labour Affairs Commissioner Louie Laveist plans to discuss the matter with Minister of Economic and Labour Affairs Burney Elhage in Bonaire today and while he doesn’t expect the minister to say yes to the increase, he hopes to have “fruitful discussions” and present the St. Maarten position to the Central Government.

The Executive Council’s decision was taken because talks have broken down between social partners on the flexibilisation of the dismissal laws as agreed on in the Memorandum of Understanding. “Despite several meetings and attempts to persuade social partners, we were unable to come to a consensus. The discussions failed,” said Laveist.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on Friday, February 17, when unions, government and employers organisations agreed to work out mutually acceptable terms and conditions for the implementation of the “flexibilisation” of the labour laws and for the eradication of abuse of short-term (six-month) labour contracts. A workgroup had to decide to what extent the liberalisation of the labour market would take place in St. Maarten.

But Laveist’s proposal was ratified by the Executive Council yesterday in which it is advised not to introduce the labour laws flexibilisation and to proceed with the minimum wage increase to NAf. 7.79 per hour according to present labour laws. “Consensus by all partners is good, but not mandatory. Government has demonstrated good faith but the negotiations have failed,” he said.

A letter will also be sent to all stakeholders involved in the discussions informing them that government understands there is no longer an agreement on the MOU and consequently a reduction of the surtax will be not introduced. Furthermore, the letter states that in addition the Executive Council will also not implement the flexibilisation of the dismissal law.

The Executive Council strongly recommends that the private sector present a proposal to government via the labour summit joint committee to prevent possible exploitation of a flexibilised dismissal law. “If they present a viable solution that social partners can live with, government can reconsider its position and finalise the MOU,” Louie said.

Once again Laveist called upon the business community of St. Maarten to increase employees’ pay. “I make a plea not to contribute to any further to increase of poverty, crime and social ills, no further contribution to substandard living,” he said, stating that after 13 years it was obvious that a minimum wage worker was entitled to a raise.

Copyright ©2006 The Daily Herald St. Maarten

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