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Caption (L-R): Ms. Claudia Coenjaerts, Director, ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus, Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Mr. Vinícius Carvalho Pinheiro, Director, ILO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr Wayne Chen, President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation (CEC), Mr Andre Lewis, President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) and the Honourable Vance Amory, Minister, Ministry of Nevis Affairs, Labour, Social Security and Ecclesiastical Affairs, Saint Kitts and Nevis (present, but only via audio)

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While the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has ultimately led to short, medium and long-term disruptions in the labour market, one thing must remain a top priority—workers’ health.

This, according to the president of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, Andre Lewis. Lewis raised the point emphatically during yesterday’s virtual roundtable discussion titled, “The World of Work in a Time of COVID-19,” hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Lewis one of the panelists on yesterday’s discussion said: “Workers were at the forefront of the response to this crisis and that employers must place health before wealth and people before profits.”

He added that it was something that must not be forgotten. Lewis also alluded to the possible unfair acts by some employers who would seek to hold ransom employees entitlements during the pandemic who cannot attend work due to government implemented restrictions and lockdowns, saying it must not be allowed to happen.

ILO Americas Director, Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro, endorsed Lewis’s prospect restating a response to the current crisis was to ensure investment in workers’ health, not just as an immediate counter but also for the future.

Panelists also included Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus who represented the Government of T&T and spoke extensively of the social support measures actively in place in the country as it seeks to address the employment and socio-economic threats issuing from the COVID-19 pandemic. She highlighted the amalgamated efforts by the Government and stakeholders in the country, to ensure the health and safety of the workforce and by extension, the population. She also articulated the financial decisions that were being made by the Government of T&T to tide the nation over this crisis.

As such, Baptiste-Primus noted Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s recently-appointed 22-member recovery committee chosen to steer the country back to stability post-COVID-19.

Other panellists at yesterday’s virtual discussion included St Kitts and Nevis Minister of Labour, Social Security, and Ecclesiastical Affairs with responsibility for Nevis Affairs, Vance Amory, Wayne Chen, President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation and Director of the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Claudia Coenjaerts, who served in the capacity moderator.