The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) shadow spokesman on labour on Monday called on his opposite number in Government to address pressing issues currently facing workers amid the COVID-19 crisis
In a statement, the DLP’s Courie Cox, said Minister of Labour Colin Jordan’s recent plea for workers not to panic was not feasible as several issues preventing the earnest resumption of economic activity still remain with no end in sight.
Cox said: “The Democratic Labour Party is at a loss regarding this request of workers by a Minister in an environment where unknown strains of the Covid-19 virus are running rampant. This has resulted in business operations being disrupted on a daily basis with clusters of workers testing positive and staring immediate weeks of financial uncertainty in the face. The Government has announced the clearance of testing results backlogs, but we all are aware that numerous workers are still at home awaiting results for more than a week.
“We are also aware that the spread has had a tremendous impact on the workers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) who function daily fearing that they may contract the virus and take it home to their families. Is the Minister aware that the wait for results at home is not classified as sick leave, and that workers are currently subjected to the whims and fancies of an employer? What is his remedy?”
With a level of uncertainty in the work environment, Cox said that Barbadians had little choice but to worry about their future in terms of income to support themselves and their families.
He suggested the labour minister read previous statements made by the Executive Director of the Barbados Employers Confederation on the issues currently facing workers.
Cox declared: “[BES chief] Sheena Mayers-Granville… has said the impact of the lockdown extension until the end of the month was not a decision prepared for by the struggling business sector. Ms Mayers-Granville went on to say that though some employers budgeted for continued payment to their employees, they may now be forced to lay these said workers off for the rest of the lockdown. To make matters worse she also pointed out that many workers will not qualify for unemployment benefits so soon after a high number of them received benefits last year.
“These are all the issues among many others being faced by the hard-working men and women of this country and all we can get from the minister is two words: ‘Don’t panic’.”
Cox also called for a “temporary national classification for workers who can be recognized by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as not medically sick, but unable to work due to Covid-19” in order for workers to have better support going forward.
The DLP labour spokesman also suggested that personal protective gear, access to psychologists and widespread rapid testing for COVID-19 should be made freely available in order for the workforce to safely return to their jobs. (SB)