SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) is in the final phase after steering the process leading to the establishment of the “Soualiga Employer Association” (SEA).
The establishment of the SEA is part of the process of nominating various representatives to the high council of state the Social Economic Council (SER). A list of names will be submitted to the Prime Minister hopefully by the end of the week of September 7.
President of the COCI Supervisory Board Benjamin Ortega said on Friday that COCI was mandated by the Prime Minister back in April, and given the task to follow a legally, sound process where names would be submitted to fill the positions on the SER based on the establishment of an umbrella employer organization to ensure a better representation of employers’ organizations on the board of the SER. The appointment of the 2020-2023 board was put on hold until this new structure was put in place.
“We have read in the media several times press releases and statements made from another Employer Council that, according to the aforementioned, are made up of four associations that are known to the island. Members of one of these associations has been on the board of the SER for a number of years and is aware of the request of the Prime Minister with regards to the establishment of SEA through COCI.
“We took a holistic approach regarding this very important process that we were tasked with to carry out on behalf of the Government. We consulted with a number of broad-based stakeholders and worked in unison according to the procedures of good corporate governance to reach the final stage of this process.
“We have ensured that the right process has been followed and that all major employers have had the opportunity to be included and ultimately be a part of the SER,” said Ortega. Consultation sessions took place with the Banker’s Association, the Sint Maarten Insurance Brokers Association, the Taxi Association, the Chinese Merchants Association as well as with small and medium hotel sector representatives. In addition, letters were sent to Government-owned companies to inform them and request if they would be interested in joining the SEA.
Ortega added: “Although we are still in the process of engaging with as many relative businesses and associations to ensure we have a balanced representation in the names that we will put forward to the Prime Minister’s office, we are extremely surprised and disappointed in the lack of inclusion and respect that the Employer Council has shown towards the country by disregarding the SER and the mandated request from the Prime Minister.
“The SER is not a pressure group, and hijacking the process of the request of the country’s government without acknowledging nor contacting or including COCI or SER or any other businesses and associations can be considered presumptuous and disrespectful.
“It is important that the country has a SER board with a variety of businesses and government-owned companies that represent a large group of persons. The SER as an independent advisory body, is comprised of independent experts, employee representatives (unions) and employer representatives (various companies/business owners through the SEA).
“The combination of employers, employees and independent experts in the SER, is the only official tri-partite constellation which is in line with international best practices and the international United Nations Charter standard for organizations such as the SER.
“Through the mandate given by the Honorable Prime Minister, the SEA is required to present three permanent members and three substitute members for the appointment on the SER board.
“We are now in the final stage at this juncture. The SER needs to be up and running as soon as possible due to our current socio-economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Broad-based representation is needed in order to deal with the uncertainties that our country is currently facing for the foreseeable future.
“The SEA remains open to all businesses and associations who would require their voice being heard at the level of the SER to ensure a balanced representation across the board. Interested in participating, contact should be made with COCI for details and confirmation,” Ortega concluded.