Hotel union supports testing protocols, but calls for greater worker protections

Hotel union supports testing protocols, but calls for greater worker protections
Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said the bargaining agent supports the testing protocols of hoteliers as they return to work, there must be greater protection for workers who contract COVID-19 on the job.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Woods said employees’ salaries should not be interrupted once it is determined the exposure was work-related.

He said the union first wrote the government on the matter in March, but has yet to receive a response more than seven months later.

The union president said he hopes to meet with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on the matter to ensure the protection of thousands of workers who have been furloughed since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“If it is contact traced back to the job, it must be covered,” Woods asserted.

“But we need to speak to the competent authority.

“If would not be for Atlantis [or others] to make that decision.

“NIB (the National Insurance Board) has to make that decision.”

When contacted, Director of Labour John Pinder pointed out that in instances where a worker becomes infected with COVID-19 on the job and has to quarantine for the required 14 days, the individual has access to NIB sickness benefits.

But he said the matter is not considered an industrial incident based on existing law.

To access the sickness benefit, an individual must be employed on the day of or the day before the illness began, and must be able to satisfy certain contribution conditions.

These NIB-mandated conditions include paying at least 40 contributions overall; having paid and/or being credited with 13 contributions in the 26 weeks immediately before the week in which the period of quarantine was imposed; or 26 contributions in the 52 weeks before the week in which the period of quarantine was imposed; or 26 contributions in the contribution year immediately preceding the first day of quarantine.

“Note that you must follow the same process as you ordinarily would for claiming sickness benefit, specifically, your illness must be confirmed by a medical practitioner, and your employer must confirm that you are off from work,” NIB wrote.

A reported 3,000 Atlantis workers will return to work for the first phase of Atlantis opening on December 10.

As part of the resort’s bubble concept, employees will be screened on-premises and tested weekly.

Atlantis will cover the cost of testing, according to Woods.