Union lobbies for better protection for workers amid Covid crisis

General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union, David Massiah (Photo by Theresa Goodwin)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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Union bosses are penning an official request to government to establish an unemployment fund for workers who have been fired or laid off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The executive of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) is also pushing for measures to protect workers’ severance pay and other entitlements.

ABWU General Secretary David Massiah said a letter to this regard will be submitted to government very shortly. The missive, he said, is based on a number of resolutions that were adopted during the union’s 54th Annual Delegates Conference on Tuesday.

“These measures will help to ease the burden on employers from having to source monies to cover severance in the time of a crisis or any other disaster of this nature. The members and workers would have voted in agreement that such a letter should be sent to the government,” Massiah said.

The union’s membership also adopted an International Labour Organization (ILO) policy framework for responding to the coronavirus crisis.

The 17-page document details guidance and recommendations for ensuring that decent work is applicable even in the unparalleled context of the Covid-19 crisis, standards for dealing with safety and health at work, social security, employment, non-discrimination, working arrangements and the protection of specific categories of workers, and guidelines on the design of rapid responses that can facilitate a stronger recovery.

The report also covers recommendations for stimulating the economy and employment, supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes, and protecting staff in the workplace.

Massiah is hoping the government will adopt this or a similar framework going forward.

“As we continue to ask what is happening with the entire aspect of Covid-19 and its impact on the job market, we think it is prudent and correct at this time for the government to consider the policy framework of the ILO as a matter of response to deal with the crisis,” Massiah added.

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