No pandemic leave, but Gov’t is considering other options

No pandemic leave, but Gov’t is considering other options

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said that the offer of pandemic leave to employees is no longer being considered in its full form.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Dr. Rowley said when the issue of pandemic leave first arose as a discussion matter, it was made very clear that it had to be approved by the Cabinet.

“The Cabinet went further than that and kept the working force at home. So the concern that generated pandemic leave in its fullness is no longer with us. The matter of whether of not you have some element of it still being considered is still there, but there is no pandemic leave as was initially envisaged to take care of any person who may be away from work more than their 14-day sick leave.”

He said Government’s decision to allow persons to stay home superseded any talk of an additional pandemic leave.

“But there considerations for other developments, but that is a matter for the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago and that is where the matter will lie at the moment,” he said.

In March, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus had proposed pandemic leave to workers as one of the ways to fight the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

But in April when asked for an update about the leave she said, “Regrettably, all criteria for pandemic leave had not yet been finalised.”

She said the guidelines were tabled at a Cabinet meeting since there were two issues that arose. As a result, the matter was referred to the Finance and General Purposes Committee, which sought counsel from the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC).

“There was no need for a meeting, the information was sent out and NTAC’s comments have been sent back to the Finance and General Purposes Committee,” the Labour Minister had said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition has also taken the Government to task for refusing to provide the country with an update on the leave.

In a statement the Opposition said, “With the recent decline in WTI oil prices and the uncertainty surrounding many jobs today, the least the Government can do is to produce a working document outlining the pandemic leave and protecting workers during this time.We ask again, when can employees and the wider public expect the final policy relating to pandemic leave and why has it not been released after being announced over 30 days ago?”

The Opposition said more attention should be placed on the workers as with the steady decline of the energy sector, employees and human resource must be safeguarded to prevent an all-out economic collapse.