(St. Lucia News Online) — Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre has called on the Allen Chastanet-led government to implement a “preliminary minimum package of benefits” to workers who will be displaced by the economic fallout over the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
To date, Saint Lucia has confirmed two cases of the disease as over 200,000 people have been infected worldwide, resulting in over 7,000 deaths.
The pandemic has resulted in the closure of schools, businesses, restrictions on travel, social gathering, and entertainment events. Already, thousands of people have lost their jobs or have been laid off temporarily — without pay — while governments battle the novel coronavirus.
“We must announce a preliminary minimum package of benefits to workers who will be displaced by the economic fallout. Already hotels are closing and small businesses are feeling the pressure, Pierre said in his second address to the nation on COID-19, on Wednesday, March 18.
He said the government must not allow individual hotels and businesses alone to determine how workers will be compensated. He said it has to be a national consensus.
“At a minimum, and as a matter of urgency, the prime minister must make some policy statements on mortgage deferrals, higher statutory sick pay, pay for workers laid off, and help for the self-employed example, taxi drivers, vendors. The people are anxious and cannot wait for the Budget which will not be presented until the end of April.
“We must announce a policy statement on the payment of utility bills at this time. Low-income workers must be given the comfort that their water, electricity, internet, and phone will not be disconnected during this emergency period,” Pierre said,
He said the authorities must announce plans to allow civil servants who can work from home to do so.
“This must also take into account parents who will need to be home to care for their children as they are now required to be home,” he pointed out.
Pierre, who is also the political leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, called for financial relief for businesses.
“We must consider a deferment of instalments on income tax due by large and small businesses for this year,” he added, while concluding that “the Opposition remains willing and able to be part of the consultative process that will ensure that Saint Lucia is ready, proactive and places the health safety and welfare of the people of Saint Lucia first and foremost”.