US Party MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper.
PHILIPSBURG--United St. Maarten Party (US Party) Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper has called on Labour Minister Richard Panneflek not to grant any dismissals at the moment, given the promised aid for workers in government’s stimulus plan.
He made the call in a letter to Panneflek about illegal labour dismissals and rising unemployment in the country. In the letter dated April 18, Buncamper said there has been much unrest and uncertainty in the business world globally and locally since the coronavirus COVID-19 reached St. Maarten. This uncertainty has led to many business owners starting to send home employees in ways that do not adhere to the laws of St. Maarten, Buncamper said.
“While I understand that businesses are in business to make money, they have an obligation by law to follow the procedures as set forth by law regardless of the situation,” the letter read.
He said government through Finance Minister Ardwell Irion is finalising a stimulus plan to help the businesses and residents cope with the projected hardships in the next three months.
“It’s with this backdrop that I ask of you not to grant any dismissals at this point in time and have the businesses make use of the payroll support,” Buncamper said.
“Presently we can read in the media of hotels and many companies sending letters to their employees asking them to sign such letters to terminate all working relationships with the companies. To my understanding since mid-March many businesses have already sent home employees, some with pay and some without pay, when the flights and cruise ships basically stopped calling on the island.
“The food drive registration of some 9,208 persons must be a clear sign that people need food and most probably cannot afford to purchase it.
“The (illegal) dismissal practices should be stopped instantly and I believe your intervention as Minister to address this matter is urgently needed. Mass dismissals will only lead to unrest in the country, something we can ill afford at this time or anytime in general.”
According to Buncamper, unemployment is rising by the day as these matters go unresolved and this means that government will need to make additional provisions on its already meagre budget to accommodate such a significant rise in unemployment.
“It’s with this in mind that I ask how much involvement is there regarding your ministry’s input in the stimulus plan regarding the unemployment aspect in the stimulus? Lastly, I ask that your ministry takes the lead on creating a workers payment fund (to cover the huge unemployment group) for the event that the recovery takes longer than the lifespan of the stimulus plan presently being prepared.
“The manner of funding the fund can be discussed, as in my opinion the well-being of the workers lies in your portfolio under the heading of labour policies and the labour laws of the country,” Buncamper suggested in his letter.