On Thursday February 14, 2013 an article entitled "Checkmate forced to dismiss officers" appeared in the Daily Herald.
As the authority responsible for the issuance of employment permits, I deem it necessary to react to this article as it may lead to factual misinformation of the general public.
My Ministry prides itself for being transparent in all matters with a passion for providing the public with the correct information and the optimal service it deserves.
First of all it should be noted that it is the responsibility of the employer to secure an employment permit prior to employing the worker. If it is a case of a renewal it should be noted that:
1. The employer should request the extension prior to the expiration of the present permit;
2. There is no guarantee that the permit will be extended;
3. The request for extension can be denied for reasons other than the availability of locals.
According to the article the permits in question were not rejected because of locals being available, rather for the reason that Management failed to file for the extension within the required period, thus rendering the employee as being illegal in the Country in the interim.
If a permit is denied by the Minister, the employer has the possibility to file an objection to the Minister, who decides after having received advice from an independent appeal committee. Should the objection have also been denied, the employer can still file an appeal with the Courts of First Instance.
If in all three cases the request was denied, the employer will have to wait for a period of one year before he/she can reapply for that same worker. Should the employer fail to follow the full appeal trajectory (appeals committee and Courts) then he/she would have to wait for three years before being able to file for the same worker. According to the article the employer in this case failed to file an appeal with the Courts of First Instance, thus would have to wait for three years to reapply.
The employer in this case states that he is forced to dismiss the workers for not having a valid employment permit to employ them. The following should be stated.
1. As stated above, it was his responsibility to have filed timely for the extensions;
2. When dismissing an employee, the stipulations as mentioned in the Civil Code of St. Maarten and the National Ordinance on the termination of labour agreements should be taken into consideration. Considering the duration of employment as mentioned in the article one could conclude that prior permission for dismissal by the Secretary General would be needed.
The article also states that the employer in this case have granted loans to employees to cover the costs involved. It should be noted that in accordance with the existing law and regulations, it is the employer who is responsible for paying the processing fees charged by government and not the employee.
"I acknowledge reacting solely based on the article mentioned above, yet finding it necessary to clarify certain matters referred to in the article."
It should also be noted that the stipulations of the labour legislation of St. Maarten apply to all workers, documented or non- documented. It is the responsibility of the employer to comply with these stipulations. Workers and employers needing information can always contact the relevant departments of my Ministry.