NA MP George Pantophlet.
~ Not fining employers is giving them free pass ~
PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet believes that the onus should be on employers to submit an exemption letter for their workers to remain in the country while their residency documents are being processed as part of the Task Force Project to document persons working at the same employer for five years and longer.
The Ministry of Justice announced in a recent notice that undocumented persons, whose residency status will be applied for under the Justice/VSA/TEATT Task Force, should submit an exemption letter to the Minister of Justice at the Government Administration Building requesting to remain on the island during the processing of their residence permit.
Pantophlet said in a press statement on Tuesday that it was with much interest that he took note of the announcement that undocumented persons were required to submit the exemption letter. He feels that "the onus should be on the employer since they are responsible for requesting an employment permit for their workers in accordance with article 1. 2 of the Law of the Employment of Foreign Labour,” the MP said in his statement. “The employer is in a better position to request it because they are in possession of the required information such as the name of the business, etc.,” he indicated.
“What I want to insert here also is Article 4 sub 1 of the national decree containing general enactments, that the employer is responsible for paying the processing fee. Unfortunately, it is a known fact that there are employers who advance this fee and then deduct it from the salary of their employee. It means that the employee will end up paying the fees for an employment permit and residence permit. The former is in contravention of the law. Keep in mind that the employment permit belongs to the employer while the residence permit belongs to the worker,” stated the MP.
Pantophlet is also concerned about fines being issued to employers who have undocumented workers in their employ for years and never requested an employment permit for them. He believes that employers who are involved in this practice are being given a free pass.
He believes this is part of the low hanging fruits. “What is also not clear is whether these workers who are employed for years are guaranteed that the employment permit will be granted.”
The MP wants government to be clear that it only applies to persons who have worked at the same establishment for a period of five years or more. The MP said he has been receiving calls from persons who are only employed for three years or less.
Pantophlet hopes the labour laws will be applied regardless of the status of the worker. “Case and point – one should not be deported without collecting his/her salary, vacation pay, including years of service. And the airline ticket should be paid for by the employer,” the MP insisted.