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News: Chamber fires back at PM’s ‘do you have a soul’ comments

From The Nassau Guardian April 20th, 2020:

After Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis expressed disappointment yesterday in Bahamian companies laying off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) in turn expressed its disappointment in the comments from the nation’s leader.

BCCEC Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said the chamber was disappointed to hear comments directed at the private sector, adding that with no clear indication on when and how the economy will reopen, the BCCEC supports its members as they all struggle to make wise decisions, maintain their employee complement and prepare for the future economic direction of The Bahamas post-COVID-19.

“Every day the business community is having to make difficult decisions that have impacted some of its employees, after not having the ability to generate revenue for over four weeks. Many business owners – small, medium and large – are trying to find ways to keep their staff employed as long as possible, including dipping into their own pockets to meet the need. The BCCEC commends our members for these efforts,” she said in a statement.

“Despite the inability to generate revenue or the reduction in revenue generation, many BCCEC members have chosen to keep their employees engaged during this time. Some have been forced to furlough and others had to make the difficult decision to lay off workers, many of which are like family. What must be remembered, is that these layoffs are temporary and it is the intent of the employers to re-engage these employees in the future. None of these decisions have come easily.”

During his national address, Minnis asked companies, “Where your heart? Where is your compassion? Do you have a soul,” after asking them to “hold off” on layoffs for as long as possible. Rutherford-Ferguson said given that the private sector is the economic driver of the Bahamian economy, providing jobs for the majority of the Bahamian workforce, the country cannot rebound post-COVID-19 unless businesses survive this health and economic crisis. “Only the businesses that survive this crisis will be able to stimulate the economy by providing future jobs for Bahamians,” she said.

“It is a major sacrifice that local and international business owners have made to support the health and safety measures that are currently in place. Some of these business owners will lose their life’s work and savings as a result.”

The National Insurance Board (NIB) has stated that just under 30,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits and assistance since the closure of the economy due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures were implemented.

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