The Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) notes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic. This means this disease is very likely to make its way to all countries.
This can have a devastating impact on all peoples, especially workers, the poor and marginalised, and the elderly. Information is that the effects of the pandemic may persist for as long as eighteen (18) months.
Accordingly, the CCL calls for a collaborative approach at the national and regional levels to combat the spread of the disease and mitigate its effects. We note that several countries in the Caribbean Islands, including Cuba, have already registered cases of infected persons with a few deaths. We call upon our affiliates to pay particular attention to guidelines provided by the WHO and other authoritative sources of information to limit the spread of the disease in our workplaces and communities.
Sector-specific unions should pay special attention to the guidelines provided by our international confederations; for example, workers in the maritime sector should acquaint themselves with releases from the International Transportation Federation and workers in the hospitality sector should acquaint themselves with the releases from the IUF.
We also remind workers that they have a personal responsibility to protect themselves and their families from this insidious enemy by observing the social distances and personal hygiene guidelines.
The CCL calls on regional governments to engage in meaningful and continuous consultations with both the Labour movement and Private Sector to find workable responses to the virus. If ever there was a time for robust social dialogue, that time is now.
The CCL is of the view that no worker should suffer any loss in wages as a result of the disease. The CCL is also of the view that allowances must be made for workers to be afforded the opportunity to take care of their children and loved ones who may be impacted by the disease without suffering any penalties.
CCL is aware that many Caribbean workers live from pay cheque to pay cheque and are vulnerable to any loss of income. This is a time when countries must seek to ensure that there is the necessary social safety net in effect.
We know that the necessary social protection mechanisms are not in place in most countries, we call on the social partners to agree to an emergency (and temporary) mechanism to protect business, employment and income in this unprecedented circumstance. This situation requires the bravery and inventiveness of all the social partners.
We are particularly concerned about the practice of some businesses which are involved in price gouging and call upon the Governments and private sector organisations to demand that this practice be stopped. Where applicable, governments should bring the full force of available law to protect the well-being of society from these unethical practices. In locations where there are no provisions against price gouging, governments should take immediate action to put such provisions in place.
The CCL calls upon our regional organisations within CARICOM to spearhead a co-ordinated regional response to this threat. We see this as a clear and present danger to the stability and development of the region, which warrants a drastic change to the normal way of doing business.