Representatives of the business community lobbied for an increase of the minimum wage. The Daily Herald writes that members of Saba Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce met with Dutch State Secretary Jetta Klijnsma Monday, about, among other things, a proposal from them about a 20-per-cent increase for the lowest wage earners. SBA President Wolfgang Tooten said the island is unique for having business owners push for a higher minimum wage, adding that the companies could easily afford the extra cost. “We wanted to take responsibility for the welfare of the community, not just for employers, and we agreed that we can all bear the burden of a 20-per-cent increase in the minimumwage as a means of helping the community,” Tooten said. “This kind of business-proposed big increase in minimum wages is unheard of in other countries.” Chamber of Commerce(COC) representative Alida Heilbron agreed with Tooten, saying that businesses are willing to pay the proposed $5.50 minimum wage. The minimum wage on Saba is $4.61. She pointed out that the calculation for the old age pension is correlated with the minimum wage, and this was a big incentive in the decision. Heilbron noted that while the increase looks large on paper, in reality, it should not hurt businesses. Tooten said, “We didn’t ask anything in return for this, it was a decision made separate from any other topic.” Stanley Peterson, representative of Saba Merchants Association (SMA), said the increase would boost the purchasing power of the local workforce and that “as employers, we have an obligation to our employees, and we hope to take care of them as best we can, so that they can have a decent life.”
The business representatives also talked with Klijnsma about the processing of work permits. Tooten stated that the representatives asked the state secretary to look into the “cumbersome, highly bureaucratic and unrealistic” work permit and renewal procedures. They showed the last CBS report about the low unemployment rate of 4.4 per cent, “which means less than 40 people, who likely don’t have the right skill-set to fill vacancies. Without an available native labour market, businesses depend on securing skilled workers from offisland,” said Tooten. Peterson said the lengthy procedures currently in place, “severely affect businesses on Saba, especially dive shops and restaurants. If businesses lose critical employees like dive instructors or chefs in high season due to unforeseen circumstances, the process of filling the vacancy and obtaining a new permit takes months, leading to service disruptions for clients,” Peterson said. “These delays have a snowball impact with a major negative impact on the local economy through no fault of the business owner.” Peterson said the secretary’s delegation seemed receptive, and he expects they will look into this. Kelly Johnson of SMA said that finding a fast solution would help business owners on Saba. “We also hope that a solution can be found in a short period of time to alleviate the burden placed on businesses by this very tedious and time-consuming process that hampers business on the island,” said Johnson, adding that Saba lacks workers to fill these jobs. Peterson said the state secretary might look into reducing the vacancy advertising time requirement. Heilbron also said she had to hire full-time administrative support just to deal with the new administrative burden of the tax. Every year, she said, substantial time and money are spent on gathering the documentation and approvals from all the local and regional entities involved in submitting a simple renewal, which can take months to complete. “We’d like to see this process in the hands of the local government,” she said. “They seem to have a better grasp on the actual situation on the island.” Businesses would then have means to local recourse on long-delayed decisions and not be confronted with unresponsive regional entities blaming each other. Regarding the State Secretary, Tooten said, “We thought she was very open, a very nice person; she listened to everything and seemed willing to understand our points. I think with her we’ll be able to move forward.”
The usual suspects. Apparently these three are the only business owners on the island. At least we can be certain that all voices are heard.
The SBA and the other organizations had a very fruitful meeting with the State Secretary. She was very open and was listening to our concerns and proposals. We are proud that we could offer a 20% increase in minimum wage which is related to the pensions and therefore will help pensioners and employees as well. Commissioner Chris Johnson was very active in lobbying for this increase and the local business community whole hearted supported his pursued.
I would like to add that the “usual suspects” comprised of Stan Peterson – representing the Saba Merchants Association, Kelly Johnson and Alida Heilbron – representing the Chamber of Commerce and Wolfgang Tooten – representing the Saba Business Association. These 3 entities do represent the business owners on the island, not merely themselves.
In general the minimum wages on the island are already above the official norm, so in fact it is not being raised. it is our wish that the correct amount is reflected in the laws so that this will have a positive effect on the AOV (pension) as the Dutch are using the minimum wages as a point of reference when it comes to the amount allocated for AOV.
Twenty percent is a drop in the bucket given the cost of living, and instead represents an attempt by business owners to preempt the demands of employees for a livable wage. Start at a 100% raise in the minimum wage, so those people working three jobs per week at 10+ hours per day can afford to balance the demands of earning a living with enjoying life.
Why not begin intern program to mentor the Saban youth and begin to train so they can fill in those “skilled” positions for their future.
There are intern and internship programs already in place for them who are willing to do so. For many years Saba businesses assist for example, the schools with these programs and gave students the opportunity to “shadow” jobs for a while, so they have a chance to look into the real world of a workplace.
I personally gave power point presentations for school drop out’s (foundation social work place) and attended ROA meetings for vocational training. I lobby for many years for a decent education of local youngsters (especially in jobs that are needed on Saba). I spoke to several Dutch politicians and the secretary general of the ministry of labor and sociale zaken about it, and pushed for support of these programs and/or help to create them.
The chef of our business gave (voluntary) several young people the chance to check out the work of a chef/cook and showed them the basics of the profession. This is the right way to go but we also need the support of the parents and the community to educate the youngsters that good training is required to achieve things in life and support their wish for education and training.
We’re looking forward to have more young Sabans joining the workforce in the future.
Has anybody inquired as to how many people on Saba are working for minimum wage? I’d bet it’s hovering around 50%, just like in Statia. In the European Netherlands it sits around 15%. What good is an internship to prepare for employment on the island when minimum wage is the result, regardless of levels of education?
When the cost of a beer at the grocery store is $1 including the profit margin, and it sells for $3.75 on a Friday night, there can be little excuse for not supplying a *livable* wage to employees. The sale of one beer on a Friday night just about covers the hourly wage of an employee working minimum wage.
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