May Day has been celebrated for over 80 years in T&T by the Labour Movement but this year, COVID-19 has disrupted the annual march.
On Monday, President General of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Ancel Roget announced there would be no May Day march and rally this year.
“We are taking into consideration the well-being of every citizen in this country. Due to the severity of what we are facing, the union took the decision to postpone the Labour Day Primary School Competition which was initially scheduled to begin on 20th May,” Roget said.
He noted that the union has since written the Ministry of Education advising them of this decision.
” It must be noted that because of our commitment, the competition has not been cancelled but we will continue to monitor the situation. A revised date will be based on the Government’s instruction and the Ministry of Education schedule,” he explained.
Roget urged the country to take heed of the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We are taking this very seriously and as we join with the rest of the world in seeking to bring an end to this pandemic, the OWTU stands committed to do our part. The situation is too uncertain going forward and we have to take all precautions,” Roget added.
He also warned employers not to force workers into the working environment.
“They must be encouraged to stay at home in a responsible manner. Employers must encourage the employees to report any signs of illnesses,” he added.
Roget called for a total ban of all major activities scheduled until further notice.
With regard to the pandemic leave issue, Roget said many workers in both the private and public sector were facing difficulties in getting leave. He said employers should not send their employees home without pay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
” The Minister of Labour has gone back into silence. She made a premature announcement and instead of having a consultation and then have a common statement she went ahead and spoke about pandemic leave without putting things in place,” Roget said.
He noted that the OWTU’s recommendation was for all employers as far as possible to ensure that workers remain home with no cuts to their salary.
“We all have a responsibility to fight this problem of COVID 19. Business owners cannot get VAT refunds and still send their workers home without pay,” he added.
On Sunday, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste -Primus said she had drafted draft guidelines to prepare workplaces for COVID-19 and these were to be discussed on Monday by the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
Pandemic Leave has been a new classification of paid leave in light of the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on business operations.
CPO Commander Darryl Dindial explained that this type of leave is different from sick leave and is meant to accommodate leave for employees who do not have sick leave eligibility as part of the agreed terms of their employment.