SHTA’s meeting with EXCO

SHTA held a meeting with EXCO in connection with the hiring of local labor on St.Maarten, instead of having to go through the long procedure of applying for working permits for those that are not originally from St.Maarten. 

online casino

The following is a recap of the meeting that was held.

Recap of SHTA’s meeting with EXCO


The SHTA opened the meeting by stating that it is the objective of the private sector to hire local labor as long as they have the appropriate qualifications. Applying for work permits only arises when it has been determined that qualified locals are not available.

SHTA’s concern is that the business sector isn’t performing well at the moment, meaning in terms of labor, that many businesses are operating with core staff only. For businesses that are heavily reliant on foreign labor, the SHTA is receiving complaints that lately the application process has become more cumbersome thus impeding business operations.

The main areas of discussion were:

1. Processing time for renewals of permits

The SHTA was informed that there are structural changes happening at the Department of Labor as it is transitioning into a Ministry. However, this has not affected the processing time for permits, which is 6 weeks.

2. Clarification on which employment permit policy is being used

There is some confusion on which policy is being used. SHTA was informed that the policy that went into effect in December 2009 by the NA/ Heyliger Government is still being used and that copies are available at the labor department. The policy is meant to be reviewed with stakeholders and introduced in July.

The SHTA also brought up examples where renewals for long time employees (10+ years) were rejected. Commissioner Hyacinth Richardson informed that such incidents should be brought to his attention immediately.

It was also suggested that SHTA forward its complaints to the Labor department, so they could have a better understanding of the problems.

3. Status of the Tripartite Committee

The SHTA was informed that EXCO has requested an advice on how this committee should be restructured. The advice is not finalized yet. However, with the SER (Social Economic Council) being approved, there may not be a need for the labor tri-partite committee since the discussions could be held in that tri-partite setting.

4. The role of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty in the permit application process

This treaty can only be considered on St. Maarten after 10-10-10, as treaties are only applicable to countries. Furthermore, the treaty does not automatically mean that Americans do not need employment permits. It can however be used to substantiate appeals if permits have been denied. Regarding the recent ruling based on the treaty, it is being appealed because the treaty states that Americans will be treated fairly but the national laws still apply, which was the case.
The Hague will be in discussions with U.S. Foreign Affairs to clarify the treaty.

5. Status of the Brooks Tower Accord

The permitting process through the Department of labor and the Brook Tower Accord will be synchronized, so many of the issues/ concerns will be resolved. The Minister of Justice will be making an announcement shortly clarifying the situation concerning renewals via the Brooks Tower Accord procedure.

SHTA suggested that it hold a labor workshop where its members can discuss specific cases with Labor department staff. The SHTA was advised to submit this request in writing to the labor department.

6. Tourism Update (Tourism Authority, ASIS & Marketing funds)

Status of the Tourism Authority

A decision needs to be taken on which direction to take the Tourism department in. There are two options:

1. The tourist office will be privatized outside of government

2. It will remain within Government

The commissioner informed that discussions are being held with Curacao to find out how they made the transition from a public to a private entity. SHTA informed that its position has not changed after 10 years of trying to attain a National Tourism Organization and is 100% behind the public-private model. The Commissioner is also leaning towards this type of model and expects a decision to be made soon.

Status of ASIS (Airport Statistical Information System)

An overview was given by the Project leader of ASIS which is being renamed to TSIS (Tourism Statistical Information System). His execution of the project started 5 weeks ago and it is still in the research phase. A meeting with the SHTA will be scheduled in the coming weeks. The TSIS is expected to be operational by Carnival 2011.

Marketing funds

Commissioner Frans Richardson informed that the budget cut has not affected the marketing plans, but rather the Familarization trips for foreign press and tour operators.

The Food and Wine festival is one of the activities being planned to attract visitors. Preparations are in preliminary stages, so the details are still sketchy. It will be planned for the end of October 2010.

SHTA representative of the Marine sector requested that more marketing funds be spent on that sector, since it represents 16% of the economy. The SHTA learned that the Tourist Office has appointed someone in its office to focus more on that sector.