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Prime Minister Jacobs awaiting SER restructure

Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs hereby updates the general public for today, Monday, June 22nd, 2020, as part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments concerning the Social Economic Council (SER).

On October 10th, 2010, the National ordinance of the Social Economic Council AB 2010 GT. No 19 came into effect. However, the appointment of the board was executed in May 2011. From its inception, the employer representation on the SER board was unevenly balanced. One employer organization has two (2) seats while the other employer organization has one (1) seat on the board. In order to ensure a balanced representation of the employer organizations on the board of the SER, an instruction was given to review the National ordinance of the SER.

In addition, one employer organization also requested a thorough review of the laws which govern the SER. The evaluation revealed that the current makeup of the employer representatives on the board are not in line with the principles of the SER, equal representation employer’s organizations, employee’s organizations, and independent experts is of paramount importance for the proper functioning of the SER.

The current structure of the SER consists of the following social partners such as:

the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of St. Maarten (COCI), the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), the Windward Island Chamber of Labor Unions (WICLU) and independent experts. In order to rectify the current imbalance, on April 21st, 2020, my cabinet sent a letter to the SER informing the advisory body of my decision to restructure and correct the employer representation on the board. The term of the board came to an end on April 30th, 2020.

In April, the COCI as a business register where companies are recorded, was given the mandate to facilitate the creation of an employer organization in order to create one locally established umbrella organization from which various employer organizations will obtain membership.

The COCI has established a restructuring committee, whom are charged with the execution of the restructuring of the employer representation on the board. The

COCI has informed me that the creation of the restructuring committee was done to ensure an independent and transparent process.

This restructuring of the board will allow other large employers such as the Harbor, PIJA, TELEM, GEBE, Indian Merchant Association and the Chinese Merchant Association just to name a few, the opportunity to partake in the tripartite discussions. As these organizations have never held a seat on the SER.

In this clarifying statement, clarity was provided on Government’s intentions with regard to the SER, which are based on the law, mainly article 3 paragraph 1 of the National ordinance of the SER. During the absence of the board, the Secretary-General of the SER reports to the Prime Minister. The Minister of General Affairs holds the political responsibility for the SER.

The reorganization of the employer representation was delayed due to COVID-19 lockdown. As of June 15th, the country is fully open for business. Government look forward to receiving all relevant information from the restructuring committee, my cabinet will review the documentation and advise me on the way forward. The Government of St. Maarten would like to declare that the appointment of the 2020 - 2023 board of the SER will be executed in a transparent manner and in accordance with the National ordinance Social Economic Council AB 2010 GT no.19