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News Report: Covid Powers Extension Boost For Labour Market

written by Neil Hartnell, Tribune Business Editor - January 26th, 2021

The Chamber of Commerce’s labour specialist yesterday hailed the Government’s move to extend the COVID emergency powers to May 23 as easing uncertainty for thousands of workers and employers.

Peter Goudie told Tribune Business that still-furloughed workers will gain assurance that their jobs are safe for another five months, while businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic gain that time to potentially recover without being hit by a termination package they are unable to afford.

The government’s emergency orders suspend Employment Act provisions, which mandate that companies must pay full severance to workers who have been sent home for 90 days, until a month after these powers expire. The latest extension thus takes the suspension through to June 23, 2021, and Mr Goudie said: “When I saw that today I couldn’t have been more happy.

“That takes us until the end of June. Hopefully by then we will have a vaccine in and start turning things around. I was sure happy to see the extension all the way into May. That caught me off-guard, but I was glad to see it.”

Explaining the benefits for both Bahamian employer and worker, Mr Goudie added of the former: “It relieves them of having to lay people off and make people redundant, so it saves businesses a lot of money, while people don’t lose their jobs.

“There’s two sides to this thing. People aren’t losing their jobs and employers don’t have to pay redundancy pay. It’s good news. I’m so happy to see that today. Taking it to May, it takes away that month-to-month worry about what is going to happen next month, what is going to happen next month.”

Not everyone, though, will see it like Mr Goudie. Darrin Woods, the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union’s (BHCAWU) president, yesterday argued that the suspension favours employers by enabling them not to pay full severance to staff who may want to receive their packages and move on.

Mr. Goudie, though, said many companies can simply not afford to pay workers the full termination they are owed due to the substantial loss of revenue and income caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions over the past ten months.

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