By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A trade union leader yesterday called for an “all hands on deck” approach to minimise the threat that the coronavirus crisis poses to the livelihoods of thousands of Bahamian workers.
Bernard Evans, the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas (NCTUB) president, told Tribune Business that this nation needed to adopt a “tripartite partnership” requiring sacrifices from workers as well as the employers and the government.
Calling on employees to take paid vacation if it was available, and access sick pay if it was available, Mr Evans said several recommendations for mitigating the fall-out had been made to the government through the recently-established National Advisory Committee for COVID-19.
These, he disclosed, included the government paying companies incentives to ensure they did not send workers home without pay, and also the waiver of loan repayments - and interest on those loans - that were due to the banks and other lenders.
Mr Evans, who said the government’s response was awaited, argued that such measures were “very, very much needed” to support “the most vulnerable in our society”, who he identified as those persons on minimum wage or living pay cheque to pay cheque.
Calling for the government to prevent lower income workers being “pushed closer to the poverty line”, he added: “We still don’t know the full impact of this pandemic. 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.”
Mr Evans, in an NCTUB statement, added: “Employers are asked not reduce the work capacity in order to deny the earning power of the worker. 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.
“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.