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Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal responds to a press conference held by the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste Primus on the effects of COVID-19.

Calls are being made for the government to pass emergency legislation to enforce pandemic leave.

During an interview with Guardian Media, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said the Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi must immediately bring legislation to ensure that all private-sector employees without a trade union representative, are granted pandemic leave if they are affected by COVID-19.

“The Minister of Labour has to be much more stringent on employers to assure that there will be some type of credit support if they give workers leave in these circumstances. They must also put a framework for penalties and fines if these employers abuse the situation by forcing employees to stay in work when they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” Moonilal said.

He noted that a Cabinet agreement was not enough to ensure employers in the private sector comply with granting pandemic leave.

“Cabinet does not make law. Cabinet makes policy and when Cabinet makes policy that is translated into law by the Parliament,” Moonilal said. He added that the Opposition tried to raise these issues with the government on three occasions but was shut down.

He also said, “The Ministry of Labour has to say whether it has put in place an institutional framework in place to inspect workplaces to ensure that proper hygiene items and equipment is being used.”

Moonilal lamented that many workplaces still was not outfitted with hand sanitizers.

Moonilal explained that it would be a tragedy if an employee claims pandemic leave but the employer fails to grant the leave.

He also called on the Housing Development Corporation to desist from penalizing customers who are unable to pay their mortgage this month.

Moonilal said he hoped the National Insurance Board could cover the expenses of the employers as they grant pandemic leave to workers. He also called on employees to not take advantage of the leave saying it was meant to safeguard the health and wellbeing of staff.

Efforts to contact Minister Baptiste-Primus proved futile. Attorney General Faris Al Rawi was also unavailable for comment and did not respond to Whatsapp messages left for him.