Today, I stand before you with a heavy heart, compelled to address a pressing issue that plagues the very core of our nation's economy — our beloved hospitality industry. St. Maarten's hospitality sector is not just a source of income; it's a reflection of our warmth, our culture, and our pride. However, beneath its surface lies a stark and unsettling reality of abuse and injustice.
From the bustling kitchens to the diligent hands in the laundry rooms, the backbone of our hospitality industry tirelessly dedicates themselves to making St. Maarten a beacon of hospitality. Yet, it is disheartening to witness how some employers exploit their dedication and hard work. This exploitation ranges from siphoning off service charges meant for the workers to arbitrarily deciding how much a worker deserves in tips. Such practices are a stain on the very soul of our industry.
To compound our challenges, we now face the ominous shadow of SZV's proposal to tax the tips that we, the workers, have earned through our tireless efforts. It feels like a slap in the face to those who are already grappling with unfair treatment. This proposal is not just a matter of finances; it is a matter of justice and dignity. We should not be penalized for our commitment to providing exceptional service.
What is even more troubling is the seeming indifference from certain quarters of our government. Our cries for justice and fairness appear to be met with apathy or a deliberate disregard. The Minister of VSA, who bears the responsibility of overseeing matters concerning our industry, seems to either ignore our pleas or perhaps lacks the concern for the hardships endured by the lifeblood of our economy — the workers.
However, we are a resilient people, and we will not be silenced. We are here to demand change. We implore our government to listen to our voices, to heed our calls for transparency, accountability, and equitable treatment of our workers. We stand united against the abuse and injustice that tarnish the very industry that defines our nation.
Furthermore, let us not forget the plight of those caught in the web of temp agencies. Despite the law being amended in October 2022 to protect workers, some agencies unlawfully terminate employees after more than two years of service. This is not just a breach of contract; it is an affront to justice and fairness.
The practice of companies using agencies as employers to avoid certain responsibilities or burdens associated with employees is often referred to as "employee leasing" or "staffing agencies." While this practice can offer some advantages, such as flexibility in hiring and managing personnel, it can also raise ethical and legal concerns.
It's essential to be aware that in many jurisdictions, labour laws and regulations still hold employers accountable for the treatment and rights of employees, even if they are sourced through agencies. In such cases, the client company may still bear some legal obligations regarding the well-being and rights of the workers provided by the agency.
It's crucial for both client companies and staffing agencies to operate within the bounds of the law and to ensure fair treatment, appropriate compensation, and adherence to labour regulations for all workers, regardless of their employment structure. Violations of labour laws or unethical practices can result in legal consequences and damage to a company's reputation.
If you believe that such practices are occurring in your workplace, it's advisable to seek legal counsel or report the matter to relevant labour authorities to ensure that the rights of workers are protected and that employment practices are conducted fairly and ethically.
We call upon our leaders to take action, to address the abuse and injustice within our industry, and to revisit the proposal to tax our hard-earned tips. We demand an open dialogue and collaboration to find solutions that uplift everyone, from the kitchen to the laundry room.
Our hospitality industry is not just about serving visitors; it's about taking care of our own, ensuring that their dedication and toil are recognized and rewarded. Let us stand together, raise our voices, and work tirelessly toward a future where justice and fairness reign supreme in St. Maarten's hospitality industry. Thank you, and may our calls for change be heard and acted upon.
SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR ALL!