As Minister of Labour, each year I have the honour to share with you words of gratitude and recognition in celebration of Labour Day on May 1st. This year, we celebrate with the theme of 2019, “Building the future of Decent Work”. The developments we want to see become a reality for our country and our people starts and stops with the efforts we put in to be united in the process. In order to prepare for our future we must all be committed to ensuring local participation in our rebuilding process. Our future will not only depend on stronger buildings. Our economic recovery relies on us creating jobs and local involvement. As Workers, Businesses, Community and Government, our future relies on us to be aligned towards building a future that will improve the quality of life for our people.
Our economy has changed and we have been resilient and flexible. Not only because we must adapt but because we are determined to flourish while we build “today”! As Minister of Labour, I boldly and proudly state that we are in a state of “progress”. The threats we faced in 2017 of mass dismissals, social and financial hardships were mitigated by devising and implementing programs that would directly meet the needs of our most vulnerable in the community. From 2017 post-Irma up to today, we diligently continue to implement mechanisms and programs that allow our locals to contribute and be active participants and beneficiaries in our country’s recovery, as we “build back better”.
As a country, we have been placed in an exemplary position as a result of the social welfare and labour programs of Government, the Ministry of VSA collaboration with the business sector, our unions, the World Bank overseen funding and the support of international stakeholders. The collective wins thus far are a testament that WE can indeed build a future of decent work. These achievements should not be underestimated, and I urge you to let us keep this momentum going. We CAN do this!
As a community, we must aim to grow and develop ourselves to compete with the emerging markets or risk falling behind. We must however ask, how do we achieve this and create conditions for decent work? The Ministry of VSA and the Labour Tripartite is committed to continue to create opportunities for workers to learn new skills and become more marketable for new emerging industries – these are prime examples of what decent work is. The purpose of work is not only to generate income to maintain life, but also to build and sustain a decent quality of life. How we build this is by encouraging sustainable business practices and establish incentives that will protect our workers and expand opportunities for our locals, workers and entrepreneurs alike.
Building conditions for decent work in our country is tied with compliance. Compliance by all citizens and those interested in our market and economy. Let us be flexible but fair and do better in improving our compliance issues. Our responsibility is to uphold the laws that require the payment of taxes and social premiums and to protect our workers and safeguard our economy. The act of being compliant should no longer be a discussion with the aim to deviate from responsibility. Let us collectively do better here too.
We are in a state of progress and with that said, let May 1st, 2019 be the date we declare to work HARDER and TOGETHER to build our future of decent work on Sint Maarten.
Happy Labour Day 2019
Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labour