PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says employers and employees must come to a common understanding regarding returning to work on June 1, as workers’ circumstances, obligations, and overall safety must be taken into consideration alongside the need to keep the economy going.
Speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet virtual press briefing from Jamaica House, the prime minister said that when the Government announced the discontinuation of the work-from-home order the intent was not that everyone should return to work regardless of their circumstances.
The order was implemented in mid-March, with the public sector taking the lead, followed by a formal directive from the Government to the private sector to have non-essential work carried out from home.
“We acknowledge that there are persons who would have responsibilities by virtue of schools being closed and having children to attend to, we acknowledge, and we have said that there are persons with comorbidities who should be careful how they return to work, and, therefore, we expect that the employers would exercise a high level of understanding in this period. But we also have the obligation, the duty to return our economy to its full productive capacity as quickly as possible,” he said.
Holness said the focus, therefore, is for people to work safe and smart, which means that for work that does not require physical presence on the job the Government is encouraging employers to negotiate with employees.
“Use the facilities that are available under the flexible work arrangement legislation to put in place the measures, the solutions that will ensure that persons who have children at home, persons who are ill, if they can be facilitated with these measures, let us use them. We have had this law for the past six years, let us utilise it now,” he stated.
Addressing criticisms that Government was moving too quickly to reopen the economy, he argued that, “The Jamaican Government has been very careful not to shut down the economy. Somehow, in the crescendo of opinions, we forget that there was an overwhelming call from certain quarters to shut down the economy. We do not intend to do this (reopen) without giving notice. We don’t intend to do this without developing the protocols to do so. And we don’t intend to do so without having the public health science behind what we are doing, justifying the actions… We don’t want to survive the pandemic and die in the recession, so we have to manage both things.”
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