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Labour Day message: Dr. Carla Barnett reflects on labour issues in time of COVID-19

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Posted: Friday, May 1, 2020. 1:42 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Senator Dr Carla Barnett, Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development, has shared the official statement on Labour Day, in which she joins all in saying ‘thank you’ to those most essential workers who are on the job this Friday.

These include not only health care providers, but also those at the supermarkets, banks, gas stations, government ministries and agencies, utility companies, and all others who provide you and your loved ones with a needed service.

But the more immediate concern is those who are not working – as much as half the global workforce do not have job security according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), which is tracking the drastic reduction in working hours.

Belize, Dr. Barnett reports, has doubled unemployment (last reported at 10.4 per cent of the population in September of 2019), with over 20 thousand of those in tourism alone as well as support businesses such as agriculture, arts and craft, music and entertainment, other cultural services, and transportation by land, sea and air which have also seen their jobs put on hold.

Still others, she writes have seen a change in the way they do their work, working from home using information and communication technology (ICT), and she notes that these new means of working will stay with us even after the pandemic recedes.

“The Ministry of Labour continues to engage and consult with our trade unions, employers and other stakeholders, one-on-one and at a national level, providing the best advice and support that we can. This is critical because all of us are working towards one shared goal, which is to protect all workers, as by doing so we protect families, communities, and by extension, our country.”

There is the now-obligatory reminder of the need to continue practicing physical distancing, good hygiene practice and other dictates of the Ministry of Health, and employers are told to put in place the necessary “return to work” protocols and procedures to protect your workers and the public as businesses come back to life, and to remain mindful of the mental and psychosocial health challenges of your employees and seek to provide them with the support needed.

“In the Ministry, we are continuing our efforts, as a part of government and with our national and international partners, to bring on stream programmes that will present new job opportunities as well as resources for social support and employment relief programmes for persons both in the formal and informal sectors,” Dr. Barnett concludes.

 

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