by Linda Straker
- Workers’ annual vacation leave must not be used during lockdown
- Lewis calls for legally binding document for treatment and protection of employees
- Trade unions messages broadcast during 2020 Labour Day celebrations
Andre Lewis, President of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC) has denounced the move by some employers to demand that other workers continue to turn up to a workplace for normal duties when an employee has tested positive for Covid-19.
“This is not a time for businesses to be driven by the profit motive, but should be people and health before profit and wealth,” said Lewis before calling for a legally binding document that will guide the treatment and protection of employees during this pandemic crisis.
“The GTUC calls upon the government, private sector and labour to ensure that there is an established protocol to govern the operations of companies whenever there may be a confirmed positive test of a worker or management at a workplace, but whatever we do we must be guided by life and people before profit, and health before wealth,” Lewis said in his Labour Day message broadcast via television and social media platforms.
The 2020 Labour Day celebrations did have the traditional parade and rally because of the social/physical distancing regulations, but trade unions leaders recorded messages that were broadcast across media which allowed many workers to hear.
“We must not allow that when there is a positive test, that management still forces employees to come out to work without doing the necessary treatment and test and protocols and procedures through the Ministry of Health,” said Lewis, who also represents the labour movement in the Upper House of Parliament. “And that is why some unions have had to instruct members over the period not to go out to work in the locations and business places where there were positive test results for workers.” Lewis encouraged affected workers to stand strong. “That is not something you brought upon yourself.”
Lewis who is also the President-General of Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU), used the opportunity to criticise government for not involving the voice of labour when it advised employers about options for compensating workers while the country is on lockdown.
“The government failed to involve the labour movement even in discussion regarding labour relations issues or issues pertaining to health and safety of the affected workers. It was the government who advised them to take away the annual vacation leave while the country was on total lockdown,” he said. “They, together with the worker class want employees to spend annual vacation leave locked within their homes. How unconscionable! It is not the fault of the workers that they had to be locked in.”
Lewis pointed out that unions have no problems with the lockdown because it was in the best interest of the nation. “We say that the workers’ annual vacation leave must not be used during the lockdown. We say that workers must not suffer any loss of income because of the lockdown.” Lewis said annual vacation leave is something earned by workers that is protected in law, and a decision like this should have been discussed with the relevant workers and trade unions.
Lewis described the move by some employers to terminate workers during the first month of the Covid-19 lockdown as putting profit before people, but believes that an approach of health before wealth should become the new mantra.
The theme of the 2020 Labour Day celebrations was “GTUC celebrating 65 years educating, empowering and building capacity among workers.”
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