Unions call for COVID-19 relief measures

Unions call for COVID-19 relief measures
Bernard Evans

NCTUB says workers cannot afford to be pushed any closer to poverty line

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB) is urging lawmakers to consider relief measures to mitigate fallout from the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and asking businesses not to reduce work capacity to cut costs.

NCTUB president Bernard Evans noted heightened national anxiety over COVID-19’s impact on the economy and workers’ livelihoods as preventative measures intensify.

“We still don’t know the full impact of this pandemic,” Evans said.

“There are a lot of questions that people are asking as they face this uncertainty of potential income loss. While we anticipate that there may be some job interruptions we are also calling on the Government of The Bahamas, that is all the men and women who are in both Houses, to please consider measures for relief as workers in this country cannot afford to be pushed any closer to the poverty line than they are now.

“Employers are asked not reduce the work capacity in order to deny the earning power of the worker.

He continued: “To employers, I make this plea. You can control some of the outcomes of this virus. Workplaces can play an essential role in preventing the spread by promoting protection measures to reduce the risk of infection. Relevant ILO Occupational Safety and Health Instruments, guidelines and codes of practice are all available through our office or the ILO website.

Evans sits on the National Advisory Committee for COVID-19.

He said labour stakeholders have made specific recommendations to the advisory committee for relief for workers and employers.

“We are all now aware that the WHO (World Health Organization) has declared COVID- 19 a pandemic,” the statement read.

“Schools are mandated to close. The media is laser focused on all things coronavirus. People are worried that they will get sick, and they are worried that they won’t be able to afford their rent or food if they can’t work. Even if they aren’t sick, they worry about the effect this will have on their place of employment or that their employer will no longer need their services.”

“We, along with President Obie Ferguson of the CBTUC, are attuned to the cries of our people who are now asking the relevant questions about quarantine leave, self-imposed quarantine, unpaid leave, paid leave, the women are asking about special leave to stay home with the children,” the statement continued.

“And then, there are the questions on policies about safety and health. Our Affiliate, the Prison Staff Association expresses their concern about a contingency plan should there be an outbreak in the prison.

“These are all aspects that we have to consider in a logical and sequential fashion. We are calling on employers to initiate the instruments and code of practices that are necessary for their workers, especially front line workers such as EMS personnel, health care providers, customer service reps, hospitality industry reps. and air and sea port workers to name a few.

Recommendations have also been made through representatives on the National Tripartite Council, which will be forwarded to Cabinet, he said.

Evans added: “We are a resilient people; we may be passive at times but when our backs are against the wall we come out fighting. This is no time to lose heart or cause hysteria. Facts and science and yes, our faith will get us through.”