The long awaited clarity on the National Shutdown Policy will be available by the middle of next month.
This assurance came from Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite, who had promised eight months ago to clarify any grey areas in the policy after a number of local businesses had come in for heavy criticism for remaining open during the passing of Tropical Storm Matthew last September.
Brathwaite had contended at the time that it was nothing short of “irresponsible” for businesses to place their employees’ lives in danger by asking them to report to work despite a national shutdown.
Since then, employers have called for further clarification from Government on the protocols for a national shutdown, given that the Department of Emergency Management’s Policy Framework and Standard Operating Procedures for the Systematic Shutdown and Reactivation of Barbados in times of severe weather, tropical storms or hurricanes lists supermarkets – as well as utility companies, minimarts, shops, pharmacies, general stores, including hardware stores and lumberyards, companies that provide public transportation and telecommunication providers – as essential services.
Speaking with the media following today’s UNICEF certificate ceremony at United Nations House in Hastings, Christ Church, Brathwaite revealed that discussions on the policy with the relevant agencies would begin at the end of this month.
“We are having our annual exercise on the 30th of June. Because of the Tradewinds [training exercise] which took up a lot of time by the Department of Emergency Management, we have not finalized our sit-down with the Social Partnership to ensure that all are on board with respect to the National Shutdown Policy,” Brathwaite said.
However, the minister was of the view that clarity on the policy may not have been the real issue, as the policies had been in existence for years without any problems.
“We never had a problem before. It is only last year that we had a problem for the first time and I am not sure it is ambiguity because the policy has not changed in all the years. It may be that we needed to educate a few more of the actors because they are new.
“Right after the 30th [of June] and I am going to commit that within two weeks of our sit-down, we will sit down with the Social Partnership and go over it again,” he added, issuing a warning that any further hiccups after the public is educated on the parameters of the policy could result in enforcement legislation.
“If necessary – and I hope it won’t be necessary – we would have to legislate the process; but hopefully good sense would prevail,” Brathwaite stressed.