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Pierre Urges Relief For Low Income, Displaced Workers In Coronavirus ‘Emergency’

Opposition leader Philip J. Pierre has urged relief for low income and displaced workers amid the current Coronavirus emergency.

It was among a number of suggestions made in an address to citizens on Wednesday.

They included a call to to announce a policy statement on the payment of utility bills and providing low income workers  with the comfort that their water, electricity, internet and phone will not be disconnected during ‘this emergency period.’

The national address was Pierre’s second in connection with the COVID-19 crisis.

The entire address is reproduced below:

Fellow Saint Lucians, following my address as Leader of the Opposition on Sunday and having listened to the Prime Minister’s address on Monday evening, I feel compelled to highlight some lingering concerns by the Official Opposition about the Government’s approach to the COVID-19 issue. Before I do, so let me commend the Prime Minister for adhering to the protocols on COVID-19 when he felt unwell and self-isolating yesterday. We are all relieved that his COVID 19 test result was negative and we wish him a speedy recovery. As Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party I want to call on all Saint Lucians to refrain from wishing ill-health on anyone or believing that anyone wants COVID-19 to destroy Saint Lucia. This cannot be our way as a civilised people. In this vein, I ask that we wish everyone in quarantine and self-isolation well and my thoughts go out to Sis Emma Hippolyte.

I first want to reiterate that The Saint Lucia Labour Party is fully committed to a one-nation harmonious approach to fighting the threat of COVID-19.  We continue to urge the Prime Minister not to politicise the national effort and we pledge once again to uphold the spirit of bipartisanship. In this regard we are pleased that we have been invited to participate in joint meetings. However, final decisions are made at Cabinet level and we are obviously not represented there. Many recommendations and ideas have been shared with the Government over the last few days. For the benefit of our citizens we feel obliged to make public the Oppositions approach to dealing with some of the pertinent issues.

The Prime Minister has stated that he is taking his guidance from PAHO, WHO, CARPHA and from the local Ministry of Health. We have no issues with that approach, however there are other countries which do the same, but are proactive even though in some instances they have as few proven cases as ourselves or no known cases.  Our country cannot afford to pay the price of being late in our decision making. We must act with haste always to protect our people.

We believe that the Prime Minister may still be in the mode of defining the problem and speaking around the critical imperatives which we must face. We need to hear a definitive path that we must all follow. The Labour Party believes as a matter of policy that Saint Lucia needs to be proactive as the situation deserves a sense of great urgency. 

While we do not doubt the authority of our experts who have told us that we are prepared, we want to caution that it is better that we are over prepared. We cannot lose if we are over prepared but we can regret if we are only “just prepared”. We must prepare for the worst and we will be better able to confront whatever reality that comes our way. 

I therefore wish to make some specific suggestions:

  1. We must not continue to host NEMAC meetings with almost 100 persons in a room and who happen to be the key decision makers in Saint Lucia. More so, this grouping meets every week and is the major entity leading the fight. In any event this is against the calls for responsible social distancing. We repeat our call for a lean, mean, rapid-response Task Force which can meet regularly and at short notice to lead the national fight against the virus; the composition of such a taskforce could be limited to heads of the key agencies, along with representatives of the government and opposition. 
  2. We should not wait for the first evidence of in-country transmission of the virus to institute aggressive social distancing measures. By then it may have spread unnecessarily and uncontrollably. Consider instituting a ban on places where the public assembles; or as a first step set a limit on the maximum numbers who should be allowed to congregate publicly at least for a period of 14 days in the first instance. 
  3. Let us undertake an extensive public education campaign in both English and Kweyol to ensure that all citizens are fully briefed on how to respond to the threat of the virus and what to expect over the next few months.  Whilst we discourage spreading of rumours, the first responsibility is on us to give out honest and transparent information to discourage speculation and help fight misinformation and panic. For example, if we do not say where the infected persons stayed and what measures we are takin them, staff at all hotels will start speculating that it may be their place of work. Our citizens must not be led to become distrustful of the information that is disseminated. 
  4. We need a special education campaign for the youth. From available evidence they are the ones least likely to be affected but they are the ones who are most mobile, active and fearless. They are most likely to be interacting on playing fields, blocks, bars and streets but all return to homes afterwards where they can infect the older members of their families. They must be strongly encouraged to follow the advice and bulletins issued to avoid further risks. It is not enough to say that once you are under-60 and have no underlying conditions, then it will just be a mild flu if affected. We need to be more consistent and clear in our messaging. 
  5. We must announce a preliminary minimum package of benefits to workers who will be displaced by the economic fallout. Already hotels are closing and small businesses are feeling the pressure. The Government must not allow individual hotels and businesses alone to determine how workers will be compensated. It has to be a national consensus. At a minimum, and as a matter of urgency, the Prime Minister must make some policy statements on mortgage deferrals, higher statutory sick pay, pay for workers laid off, and help for the self-employed example, taxi drivers, vendors. The people are anxious and cannot wait for the Budget which will not be presented until the end of April.
  6. We must announce a policy statement on the payment of utility bills at this time. Low income workers must be given the comfort that their water, electricity, internet and phone will not be disconnected during this emergency period.
  7. We must announce plans for the Civil Service to allow those persons who can work from home to do so. This must also take into account parents who will need to be home to care for their children as they are now required to be home. 

 8.We must consider a deferment of installments on income tax due by large and small businesses for this year. 

The Opposition remains willing and able to be part of the consultative process that will ensure that Saint Lucia is ready, proactive and places the health safety and welfare of the people of Saint Lucia first and foremost. 

I thank you.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Well said Future prime minister…Dominic Fedee talking about stimulus packages for the hotels but nothing for the workers who will lose their jobs, nothing for the poor and dispossessed. Whenever it is anything for the citizens of this country they never have money, but could find for those who already have. Hotels already get huge tax exemption now you want to give them more. What about a bail out for persons with debt and are unemployed. We are really nothing in the eyes of this Allen Chastanet regime. PJP is a leader who cares and one we can trust!

    • Well said . What about the workers who are sent home ? These hotels send 60 percent of every dollar they make out of the country 20 percent on staff and expenditures 20 for the government (this might be generous). They adopt nothing in the committee in which they reside with the exception of Sandals and now he talking about stimulus package for them what a joke. This virus is exposing everybody’s true colours .

  2. Pierre u asking to not politicize but I see that’s what ure doing. U know very well these are some of the things which are being discussed by the government and various stakeholders,but u will rush to make it seem like ure asking and making things happen for the ppl.
    This nation address that ure hungry for, I don’t think hilaire will allow u the opportunity if your party gains power.

    • What the hell are you talking about?! These are legitimate questions which has to be answered. An individual told me that her husband and herself are hard working people who are placed in a bind because of the measures put in place. She lamented that nothing was in place for persons who have children but who cannot afford to stay home with them. Her boss told her that she can choose either to stay home or get fired. It is impossible for the husband to remain at home with the children. Their issue was not addressed in the Prime minister’s address.

      • Don’t worry you always going to have “one” they can’t help themselves so just bare with them it’s how they start their day it’s what make them tick. Well said PM well said..not suprise by your leadership.

  3. Well said as a small business owner I am definitely feeling the financial constraints.i totally agree with the measures stated here that should be enforced.as a Nation we can’t wait for community spreading then try to take more serious measures.the pm and professionals are putting st lucians more at risk and we don’t have the infrastructure and supplies for this virus to be widespread.we are definitely not prepared

  4. A stimulus package for workers can not be decided in three days because there is no knowing hos long the impact of COVID will last. There has to be wide consultation with Unions, Employers, the NIC. How do you determine the nature of the stimulus. How are you funding it. If the government were to announce a package know and the virus were to extend to six months how will it continue to fund the stimulus package. Come on people. We are only one week into this. We do not have the deep pockets of the US, Canada, Europe and Oil rich nations.
    Give the Government a chance. Because at this time everybody wants to heard and everybody’s need is critical. When the Government said it needed to be careful with closing down the borders the cry was that they were putting money before lives. Now that the crunch is hitting, money is now important. SMH. Tie and waist and pray cause CoVID 19 is not a health crisis it is an economic crisis like none other.

    • They can get money to do what they want (I mean to waste) but when it comes to people and their needs, y’all crying “tie waist and pray”? How insensitive of you! People’s needs and concerns are real . . . except yours, I suppose.

  5. Perhaps LUCELEC coul help those families that wont be able to work with their light bills WASCO could do the same with the water FLOW could give two months of free phond calls so people can comunicate locally.This wont be over for many months apart from the virus the world is going int recesion.Every hotel worker could recieve a check of EC800 every month till they open again.We have to think and the money has to go to the workers not the owners of the bussines

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