Following the recent passage of Tropical Storm Matthew, private security guards are seeking clarification on what is expected of them in case of a national shutdown.
During a press conference yesterday morning, Chairman of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals Oral Reid reported that even though the law currently states that employees who believe they are proceeding to a location that would put them in danger have the right to say to their employers they are not available, some security guards were expected to report for duty before the all clear was given by the authorities.
“Is it okay for the owners of businesses to have an expectation that the security officer will make his way there when the national transportation service has been shut down and the all clear has not yet been given?” Reid asked.
“I am saying that since we are aware that this is a potential problem, why not let us deal with it at the policy level such that going forward we don’t find that this cadre of persons are in a position to say, ‘I am not available’,” he added.
Reid stressed that it was important for the emergency laws to be reviewed by policymakers and relevant stakeholders before the country is confronted with another national shutdown.
“Certainly in the hotel industry there is an expectation. Certainly everybody who owns a store in Bridgetown would have an expectation that security officers would turn up.
“So therefore, it is an issue that begs the question as to why it is that we have not sought to resolve this and certainly to look and see whether we can look at these private persons for inclusion within the essential service providers and if it is that decision is made, what matters would have to be addressed going forward to make that relevant to persons involved in the industry,” Reid suggested.
Under the revised Policy Framework & Standard Operating Procedures for the Systemic National Shutdown, the essential services in the public sector are listed as the Department of Emergency Management, the Meteorological Department, the Barbados Fire Service, Royal Barbados Police Force, Barbados Defence Force, Ministry of Health and associated medical facilities, transportation network and agencies involved in telecommunication, electricity, water and natural gas and other services that are essential to life.
Essential Services in the Private Sector are also listed as utility companies, supermarkets, mini-marts, shops, pharmacies, general stores, including hardware stores and lumberyards, companies that provide public transportation and telecommunication providers.
The framework also clearly states that “the public is not permitted to move out of their homes until the all clear is issued”. However, some businesses have been calling for greater clarity on the matter in view of stern criticisms recently levelled by Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite of those businesses which chose to remain open during Matthew’s passage.
At a news conference the following day, then Acting Prime Minister Richard Sealy had said Brathwaite was looking into the matter with a view to possibly making it mandatory to comply with state-declared orders to shut down.
However, no such policy revision has been announced to date, even though one of the operators who also came in for criticism was Minister of Housing Denis Kellman who kept his St Elmo’s Moontown hardware business open, but who remained defiant throughout, insisting in a Facebook posting that those criticizing his actions were “jealous” that his “mall” was able to serve customers on the day.