LABOUR Director John Pinder.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
LABOUR Director John Pinder said most employers do not have sufficient revenue to give severance packages to their employees if the government declines to extend its unemployment benefits programme.
The social assistance programme expires at the end of this month - as does the grace period in which employers can refrain from paying their employees and avoid letting them go in accordance with the Employment Act.
Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson said yesterday officials are still considering whether to extend the unemployment benefits. It is not clear if the government will extend the grace period provision beyond this month.
Mr Pinder said yesterday: “The government is trying its best to open the economy so they don’t have to extend unemployment benefits. Most employers don’t have sufficient revenue to give separation packages at this time and they’re leaning towards wanting an extension of the programme rather than having to offer separation packages. On the other hand, there are a number of employees - like those who don’t mind retiring - that would like to get the separation package and want their companies to offer them that.”
Although the Minnis administration has begun the process of reopening the country, Mr Pinder does not expect to see a significant decline in the unemployment rate soon after the process is complete.
“Unless the airlines are flying and the cruise lines are sailing,” he said, “you can’t say those who depend on tourism unemployment benefits wouldn’t need it. Many won’t be in any position to bring on any complement of staff within the first four to eight weeks after reopening. Once tourism increases then they’ll be in a position to get the right complement of staff working, but that will take time.”
Mr Pinder said if forced to offer severance packages, many companies will go bankrupt.
“It would be comparable to the situation that happened to CLICO some years ago,” he said.
Earlier this month Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government has spent about $53.3 million helping unemployed people. He said in total, 35,593 people have benefited from its unemployment assistance programmes. The National Insurance Board, meanwhile, has paid out “some $93.3 million directly to its beneficiaries,” he said.