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By Elesha George

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The government and industry partners are considering the possibility of introducing a new law that will outline a plan of action during a state of public emergency or a national crisis in Antigua and Barbuda.

Cabinet announced on May 28 that the bill, which would allow the government to “suspend certain laws during emergencies”, would be discussed when parliament reconvenes on Tuesday. 

Attorney General and Labour Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin said “it was being mooted that a law ought to be drafted to deal with all laws during this state of emergency only”.

The Emergency Powers Act authorises the Cabinet to primarily declare a state of emergency and to assume emergency powers over the country’s state of affairs, while pre-existing emergency legislation gives authority to the Cabinet to make orders during a hurricane, earthquake, fire or flood, but does not address diseases.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the government has rejected a recommendation made by the Antigua Hotels & Tourism Association (AHTA) to amend certain provisions in the country’s Labour Code. Part of the changes would have included the suspension of severance and gratuities payments to workers during the pandemic.

The minister, however, said he relayed the government’s decision to the association in a meeting on Tuesday. He added that the government “has no intention of interfering with the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code”, but it will be one of a number of pieces of legislation that will have to be reviewed in order to draft the tentative Emergency Powers (Infectious Diseases) Act 2020.

The Attorney General will again meet with members of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union, Antigua Trades & Labour Union, the Employers Federation and the AHTA this morning, after which he is expected to make a decision on whether or not to present the bill to parliament.

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