BlackFacts Details

Call for financial safety net for vulnerable workers

WITH thousands left reeling from sudden layoffs and redundancies in Jamaica and across the Caribbean as businesses try to weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a call is being made for an unemployment insurance scheme, a living wage policy and legislation to protect contract labourers in the region.

“The fact is COVID-19 has led to the layoff of thousands of Caribbean workers in the [occupational categories identified by the International Labour Organization], and these are minimum wage earners, they are chief breadwinners and single parents, and in some cases, youth workers,” he said on Friday.

Unemployment insurance is temporary wage replacement for eligible workers who may become unemployed because of circumstances beyond their control, for example layoffs, natural disasters and other crises and labour market issues.

“We need special legislation for contract labourers — for example hotel workers, restaurant workers, security guards, BPO [business process outsourcing] workers, and so on,” Marsh said, noting that the issue with contract labour is that many of the individuals are extremely vulnerable, are usually poorly compensated, have little or no job security, are not usually unionised, and are basically not protected under law.

“In terms of contract work, we would want to recognise that in Jamaica every single Jamaican worker — whether they are on a fixed-term contract or permanent contract – are really covered under the minimum standards provided by the labour laws in relation to holidays with pay and all the minimum wage payment.