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Federal, Island Labour Offices to integrate in October 2002

ST. MAARTEN-The physical integration of the Federal and Island Labour offices will be a reality come October, State Secretary for Personnel Affairs Maria Buncamper-Molanus told the Press.

"The last development to date by the project group is a protocol which has already been accepted by the Executive Council and which has to go to the State Secretary in charge of project for acceptance on the level of Federal Government," Buncamper-Molanus said.

She explained that the protocol mandates physically integrating the Federal and Island labour departments as early as October, which would mean that by the time the decentralization process occurs in December, it would only be a formality.

Buncamper-Molanus met with Drs. P.D. Lucas, coordinator of the reorganization and integration of the Island Labour and Welfare department with the ARSOZA (Federal Labour and Welfare offices), and Rafael Boasman, Interim Head of the Labour and Welfare department to discuss the integration.

The State Secretary pointed out that the integration of these two departments will make doing business with the labour departments much more convenient to the consumers.

Coliseum Casino to reopen, workers to get back jobs

ST. MAARTEN-Coliseum Casino on Front Street may be reopening its doors soon and many of the more than 5O employees who were left jobless when the casino closed suddenly on May 27 are likely to be re-employed.

Reports indicated that discussions about the possible reopening of the casino are at an advanced stage and final word is now being awaited from the shareholder of Vegas Amusements N.V., a member of the Princess Group of companies.

There are also indications that the employees are likely to be re-employed under conditions less favourable than they were at the time of the casino's closure. The first round of discussions was held on Thursday and involved the Windward Islands Federation of Labeur (WIFOL) representing the workers, officials of the Princess Group -and representatives of the Island Government and the Federal Labour Department.

WIFOL President Theophilus Thompson said -management and WIFOL had already made progress in their discussions on a desired salary level for the workers and negotiations in other areas were ongoing.

And, in an invited comment, Head of the Federal Labour Department Kenneth Lopes confirmed that, "Negotiations are taking place for the reopening of the casino."
Lopes explained that when the casino closed, a condition had been set that if it reopened within 12 months of its closure, all the workers would have to be re-employed under the same conditions as those prior to their dismissal. However, he cautioned that one of the primary reasons the casino had closed was because its expenditures were higher than its income. "They had a Collective Labour Agreement with the union and because of all of the high cost, they couldn't continue to operate, because they were only falling into greater expenses," he said. "The union and the casino are now in negotiations to explore the possibilities that when their expenses drop, they would be willing to continue operations," Lopes added.

Lopes said there was "willingness" on the part of the company to reopen the casino. When asked what would happen to the employees who had lost their jobs when the company closed, Lopes said: "All of them stand to get back their jobs. There are about 52 or 53 of them."

Thompson said the casino might go through some renovations before being reopened. He explained that company officials expect that the renovations might take about two months and he speculated that it is likely to open for the next season" in November.

When the casino closed its doors for business in May, Managing Director of Vegas Amusements N.V. Hakan Unal explained that the company had been forced to take that decision because of economic reasons and that during 1991 the casino had lost more than US $1 million. Unal also said at that time that the main components of the losses were the employment conditions and the taxation, related to them.