St. Maarten evades ILO blacklistPOSTED: 07/5/12 1:34 PM
GREAT BAY- St. Maarten was the first country within the Dutch Kingdom to present its report to the International Labour Organization (ILO) ahead of its 101st session in Geneva from May 30 to June 14. So says Policy Advisor within the Ministry of Public Health, Labour and Social Development, Linda Froston. Forming part of the larger Kingdom delegation where the Netherlands held voting rights and St. Maarten was labeled an advisor to the Dutch; Froston explained that the country’s application to labour standards was scrutinized. It is an obligation that all 185 member states submit annual reports on their compliance with international standards, but only 38 countries presented reports, St. Maarten being among the grouping.
“The committee on the application of standards has set a standard that those countries who do not submit a report are basically put on a blacklist. It is St. Maarten’s intention to never have that happen to us,” Froston said.
St. Maarten’s report specifically dealt with 9 ILO Conventions; the right to association, women compensation, workmen accident compensation, sickness insurance, forced labour, workmen compensation-occupational procedures, labour inspection, abolition of forced labour and equality of treatment-social security. It was produced in 2011.
Labour Affairs head Rafael Boasman revealed that one aspect of the report mentioned that “on the current status of social security, research is currently being done to identify the current social situation on St. Maarten and the development of statistics.”
In early May, non-governmental organizations were highly critical of St. Maarten’s expected contribution to the conference, stating that no consultation had been done with umbrella bodies such as the St. Maarten United Non-government Federation and other grass roots organizations to give an accurate representation of the nation’s situation.
On Wednesday, Boasman reacted saying that in terms of the country’s reporting obligation, the tripartite delegation was not required to meet with these organizations before heading to the conference. He added that the information placed in the report would have come from information garnered through the Social Development Department, the Ministry of Education and even the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Some of the information provided by these agencies would have already been acquired from social partners, he noted.
“It is not the intention in the reporting that the department will meet with all of the stakeholders. That is the official position of the government of St. Maarten on that topic. The attendance of the delegation at the conference is done in a similar way.”
Also in the delegation was Hubert Pantophlet on behalf of employers.
“The concerns by the various groups that they were not consulted, we know our situation so what are we going to talk about? When we look at what we were able to analyze, understand and grasp; what St. Maarten’s pension fund is and what the problem with the formal, informal persons is, (we have concluded that undocumented workers they have rights too.) Those are the things we have to bring forward in our tripartite meeting. Workers rights do not stop because you are undocumented, workers rights are because you are a worker and you have your rights. A lot of the things that were brought forward are what we are dealing with in St. Maarten and with the exposure and the understanding of how you apply these standards it can only make our situation better,” Pantophlet commented.
Representing workers at the conference, St. Maarten Chamber of Labour Unions Vice President, Claire Elshot said that there is a need for improvement in social dialogue among all stakeholders but “we would like to encourage people that is not only when we are going out. There are a number of social issues that we need to dialogue on.”
The union leader already foresees an increase in educational seminars for civil society so that all organizations are aware of the outcomes of St. Maarten’s participation at international conferences.
“We already see where the educational process has to happen back home here where we would have to educate the rest. This is a year round activity where we would have also seminars where the rest of civil society. The information now has to come back and trickle down to all of the organizations.”
Elshot sat on committee which had to review 2 fundamental ILO conventions that have received the least amount of recognition from members states; ILO Convention number 98 the right to collective bargaining and number 89 freedom to associate.
“Remarkably of the entire acceptance by the various countries of all of the different ILO Conventions, these two conventions stand out as only being ratified by 49% of the countries,” Elshot stated.
This is the second time that St. Maarten has attended the conference. While the then Netherlands Antilles consistently participated in the summit for the past ten years, St. Maarten never had a delegation as part of the Antillean grouping.