Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has told officials of the National Union of Public Workers to put the request for hazard payment on the table and Government will deal with it.
However, she has stressed that the amount of money to be given in hazard allowance will have to reflect what the country can afford, taking into consideration its other commitments, and that revenue from tourism is down.
Ms. Mottley made the comments today in an address to the nation and press conference while giving a COVID-19 update.
“The Government is sympathetic, as you would have seen with respect to the workers at Harrison’s Point and the QEH with the hazard pay. And I get it, but what I don’t get is persons sick out, when we are still awaiting the union submitting the claim. The Government does not know what the claim is and with respect, we can’t respond to something that has not been submitted….
“I’ve suggested to the Minister of Health that there has to be a division between those who are COVID frontline workers, like at Harrison’s Point, like those who are doing the swabs; and those who are in the background, necessary for the preservation of our health system or different aspects of our economy, but who are not necessarily facing the same level of risk as a health care worker or a police officer,” she stated.
The Prime Minister reiterated that Government was not averse to giving some level of hazard allowance because people were working diligently.
“But I’m putting you on notice that the quantum can only be what the traffic (economy) can bear, and the traffic at this stage has had a 90% reduction in tourism….
“I’ve seen firsthand what these people have been doing in the labs, flat out with three or four or five hours sleep. So, I am sensitive and empathetic, and will do it. But I’m also saying that the Minister of Finance may have to, later in the year, look and see how we’re going to close the gap between what we’re spending and what we’re earning,” she stated.
Ms. Mottley warned that there must be balance. She stressed the importance of managing the country with its multifaceted difficulties and challenges, as well as benefits and opportunities.
The Prime Minister noted that large numbers of unemployed persons were being carried by central government, whose revenue had significantly declined.
She continued: “If those who have, can’t help us carry those who do not have, then like with COVID, all of us are at risk. Those who have must help carry those who do not have. And if we have to do it through Government, then Government is restricted to the same pot to help now those who don’t have…, as well as those who have and are working, but want more. We will give more for the nature of the hazard, but we cannot give beyond what we don’t have.”
Ms. Mottley said the foreign reserves were now at $2.63 billion. She added that Government has had to take on a little more debt in the last few months, pointing out that the tourism sector revenue had dropped significantly.
She explained that, in the past, the tourism sector was responsible for providing at least $2.3 billion a year in the economy.