But I have to say that no experience comes close to the one I have had with this ministry and team that I have been honored to labor with every day- thank you Team VSA.
For the last three official labor days celebrations, the cabinet, the labor affairs and the labor policy department have initiated and highlighted the importance of Labor Day- a tradition that someday will be noted in history. Do any of us - really know or appreciate our own contributions- with respect to Labor in St. Maarten? Likely we do not- only in time will we be judged by the work we have done. However, I am confident that future generations will come to know that as a new country, our Ministry laid a mighty foundation for them to build upon.
Ralph Ransom said: "Before the reward there must be labor. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy." Today I will not recap all of our accomplishments, neither will I expound on what we are doing nor what needs to get done.
One of my first "paying" jobs was taking inventory at the Beach Islander for my aunt Bernadine. I knew then that this was not the type of work or business I would be pursuing. However, I completed my tasks to the best of my ability and accurately. I did not feel that because it was my aunt's store or because I was born here that the job was beneath me – I applied myself and did not cast aside a perfectly good job because I wanted to be in the office upstairs. As many business owners know, there is nothing that can compare to the humbleness and the dedication of a worker who applies him or herself to any job and does an honest and decent days' work for an honest and decent days' pay. Principles like these are the ones that guided our ancestors and are the principles that guide the tripartite committee on a local level and the ILO on an international level.
As a responsible minister and government, it is extremely important to maintain the balance between what employers want and what workers want. It is a negotiation process that is continuously influx- as it should be. Needs change- for businesses and workers alike. The key is to be able to maintain respectful and open channels of communication. Everyone is a stakeholder in the success (or failure) of a business or government.
Happy workers stay and work hard- and happy employers should reward such loyalty. It is a cyclic relationship, one that must be maintained with a high level of professionalism, compliance to labor laws and integrity. The social dialogue between the employer representatives, the workers representatives and government is essential to the future development of St. Maarten's economy.
To each and every worker past and present. I want to acknowledge you and honor you. Because of you, St. Maarten is what it is today, a metropolitan island in the Caribbean. Regardless of where you came from, you came to St. Maarten and helped to build it-your contribution cannot and should not go unrecognized. Your presence here today is a present to me. The Haitian community, the Dominican community, the Dominica community, the Indian community, the St. Kitts and Nevis community a special thank you. To our brothers and sisters, family and friends from the Northern side, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Anguilla - I say a special thank you. We have built and are building St. Maarten together.
To our currently unemployed and our future generations- I want you to be encouraged by what you see and hear today on this Labor Day 2014. Most of you are descendants of those that I may have just mentioned - I know that I am- who worked to provide a decent living for you given their abilities at the time. Whether they were skilled or unskilled, educated or self-educated, whether they worked all day or all night, whether they worked on every weekend or most holidays know that they did it for you. -I know because my mother did it for us when she worked for American Airlines - They all want more for you as you will want more for your own children so do not be ashamed or discouraged by the work they have done or are doing. Invest in yourself as much as this ministry and government invests in you. We can build St. Maarten together. I know we can- I know you will.
With close to 500 students graduating annually and 1500 employment permit requests, with the increase of "border" workers and (un)documented migrants who have impacted the treaty of Concordia, with the threat of the European Union treaties and the American Friendship Treaty we have to be vigilant and protective of our labor market. We must understand the socio-economic impact when we look around us and into the future.
Instruments like the labor market information system, the work-to-school surveys, the labor market surveys, the establishment of the Council for education and labor, the advices from the social economic council, the reintroduction of modern workbooks in conjunction with the SZV cards, will help us draw the line, continue to draft policies and revise legislation as needed. I need your support and I ask you to assist me with maintaining this balance to avoid the consequences of an unbalanced labor market. We need this to build St. Maarten together.
We are all laborers, yet our Labor should not be in vain. Our Labor should not be void of purpose. There's a popular Zen saying : "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
As Minister of Labour, my call to Build Sint Maarten Together, is a call for Nation-Building! The past years have shown us that building this Nation, will take a synchronized effort by everyone doing their fair share. It will take partners on the ground and in distant government offices, judicial, legislative and executing bodies. It will take an understanding that this is a process, and patience to know that human societies don't follow set formulas ( as much as we wished it would ). It will take leadership that is result(s)- oriented, building a nation through building the trust with our people and I trust the people of St. Maarten! All of this, tied together with a sense of real purpose, our people, of one mind, working to Build Sint Maarten Together!
Every year that I have the good fortune to write and end this speech, I find myself with a great many thoughts- too many to touch upon today. A lot of great women and men in history have been quoted on their thoughts with respect to Labor Day. One in particular stands out in my mind: John D. Rockefeller said the following: "I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with hand or head that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living."
So I thought about this for a while- opportunities. Are people (men AND women) actually entitled to opportunities? I believe so- none of us get through this life without someone taking a chance on us. Think about it- personal relationships, getting into colleges, being offered a job, bank loans- they all require someone extending an opportunity to another- a chance to demonstrate something. I am grateful for the opportunity that my uncle Leroy de Weever, the Democratic Party and the coalition partners afforded me to be your Minister of Labor for the last three years. I am grateful to have worked with All of you since this is my last Labor day speech for this term. The Next steps need to be taken, and I am prepared to continue working for our people, for our communities, for our Nation! Work with me to Build Sint Maarten Together.
I believe Labor Day is an important reminder that we ALL - are a product of the opportunities that were extended to us AND how well we utilized them. When we extend a similar kindness and patience that was afforded to us to those around us, we can uplift a nation. OUR nation. We can build St. Maarten together. I truly believe we can and we will.