Minister of Home Affairs Kenneth Hodge.
Commissioner of Labour Jo-Anne Hodge.
ANGUILLA--Minister of Home Affairs Kenneth Hodge, who has responsibility for labour, and Commissioner of Labour Jo-Anne Hodge both expressed thanks to the public and private sectors for their dedication “during these trying times.”
The minister said that the present situation is quite grim with the vast number of hotel employees unemployed, as well as those in allied businesses such as restaurants, tour operators, ferry boat operators and car rentals. He noted that 51 per cent of all jobs in Anguilla are directly or indirectly supported by tourism, and this has placed Anguilla in an existential crisis. He said it has brought to the fore the inadequacies regarding social safety nets including provision for severance pay and unemployment benefits.
He referred to the subsistence payments by government of EC$1,000 monthly that is welcome, but wholly inadequate. He said that there is therefore a need for building robust funds that can be tapped in times of need. “As a country we cannot be found wanting again when the next crisis comes around, as it inevitably will.”
He added that the government is cautiously optimistic about reopening so that people can get back to work. “Therefore, the [coronavirus – Ed.] COVID-19 vaccine is a key pillar in making that a reality. I am once again appealing to all persons who are eligible, and who have not already done so, to take the vaccine,” he said.
The commissioner said that her department has been addressing issues surrounding the rapidly worsening employment situation. She also highlighted the need to have programmes in place for unemployment benefits. “Yet responsibility does not rest on the government’s shoulders alone. Private Sector employers should recognise the value that dedicated employees bring to a business. In this small society, job retention and job security are key performance motivators as job losses can lead to hopelessness, despair, desperation, and negative social consequences. Redundancy should therefore be the last option pursued. Employers are encouraged to have honest and open discussions with staff, and together propose creative measures that may be taken to protect jobs and ensure ongoing productivity,” she said. The options could include working from home, contracted hours, being on call, transfers to other areas and contracted workdays.
She said that many are hoping for a quick solution to the labour upheaval, but the road is not easy she noted, although she expressed confidence that residents will persevere, and that will lead to a more robust and resilient work force.
“I encourage employers and employees working as a team to strategise and put measures in place so that when Anguilla reopens, those in the labour market will be prepared to seize the opportunities that arise. As we anxiously wait for the pandemic to subside, let those of us who labour on remain steadfast, stay engaged, stay positive, stay focused. Better times are ahead,” she said in closing.