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Local unions call for unemployment fund on St. Maarten

TUESDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2013

PHILIPSBURG–An “unemployment fund” to cover workers’ wages at times of layoff is necessary and would be a move to equality in all sectors of the community. Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions Vice President Claire Elshot outlined the case for such a fund on Tuesday, at a press conference.

She said it is possible to get equal treatment for workers when it comes to wages and benefits, pointing to the fact that even ministers who do not serve full terms in office were still entitled to a salary and benefits for a regulated length of time. “As workers’ organisations, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.”

She said if there is an unemployment fund for the ministers there should be one for workers. Such a fund would assist the workers of the former Pelican Resort who are still in a state of limbo.

For this reason and other pressing social matters, the unions have joined with other social organisations and churches to work together and bring to the forefront issues such as eradicating poverty to Members of Parliament (MPs) and other elected officials.

There are also concerns about increasing of the pensionable age from 60 to 62. Elshot said because of the risk of falling into poverty, many workers already choose to continue working past retirement age.

This is also due to the general pension “not being equal in all parts” of the kingdom. In some cases, people have to be in the country for 25-40 years to qualify for a pension.

On combating youth unemployment, Elshot said programmes to teach youngsters much needed skills as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and cabinet makers are essential.

Such programmes are no longer offered to youngsters in a sustainable manner and labour for such jobs has to be imported, she said, adding that if local youngsters are trained via public/private sector partnerships as was done in the past, they will have a future with employment and will contribute to the social funds.

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