As Government-paid healthcare providers across-the-board agitate for hazard allowances in the face of a recent explosion in COVID-19 cases in Barbados, the spotlight has now turned to possible similar incentives for frontline workers in the private sector.
However, Chairman of the Private Sector Association of Barbados (PSAB) Edward Clarke is suggesting that such a payout may be far-fetched at this stage.
It is being suggested in some quarters that private sector workers such as gas station attendants, cashiers and customer service representatives who come into direct contact with thousands of people daily, ought to receive hazard pay as well.
But Clarke seems not to be buying that argument.
“I would not expect us in Barbados to pay frontline…I mean, all of the cashiers, all of the customer care people across Barbados in the retail stores and outlets, restaurants and bar staff…I don’t see how we could afford to do that at this stage. I would expect true frontline workers are the people dealing with the security and health situation in Barbados at this time,” the head of the business sector grouping told Barbados TODAY.
“We have not discussed it…we have not been approached about it,” he added. “It just is too wide…you are talking about significant numbers of people that would have to have hazard pay or what we want to call it. I see that mainly for people truly dealing with hazardous situations in the health environment to be honest,” Clarke declared.
Asked how many workers would likely be affected, he said the majority of people working in Barbados are in the private sector.
“There are about 140,000 employees in Barbados and the Government has about 30 per cent of them, the rest are private sector…so you looking at about 60 or 70 per cent of the workforce. So it really is not something…we really are already under severe strain as it is already,” the business community spokesman explained.
However, he argued that if the current COVID situation got “really, really very” bad, there would be need for a comprehensive revision of the entire system and see to how the COVID pandemic is managed.
“We [would] need to look at the whole situation and see. But right now I don’t see any need for that. Right now we are trying to follow protocols, insisting that people follow protocols in our establishments, ensure that our staff follow proper protocols…and we are hopeful when staff leave our environments and go home and elsewhere in the public they are doing likewise,” he said.
Clarke said private sector employers can only manage the situation within their workplaces.
“We are hopeful that things would come around a bit…certainly that we get these cases in Barbados under control. Obviously, the Ministry of Health and the testing lab are overwhelmed…but we have to bring this back under control. We cannot have a situation where people are waiting this long in Barbados for test results,” he added.
The private sector chairman praised the Government for doing its “utmost” but suggested that this is what happens to a small island when faced with a crisis. ([email protected])