Opposition legislator Julian Fraser is calling for more specific legislation to regulate private sector employers who force their workers to come into work during times of national emergency such as natural disasters.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us as legislators to ensure even before we saw what took place with Irma to ensure that we don’t put our citizens at risk … Our legislation on curfew [and] our legislation on impending disasters has to be clear and concise,” Fraser said in the House of Assembly on Monday, September 2.
Fraser made the call while noting reports that some employers ordered their employees to attend work during Hurricane Dorian last Wednesday.
“Long after the government had announced that the civil servants were not to report to work except for essential workers — and even after there was talk of a curfew to be issued — in the private sector, employees were being asked to come to work and threatened. This information was conveyed to the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC). The NEOC, from what I understood, made contact to some of those employers and their response wasn’t favourable,” Fraser said.
The veteran legislator said such incidences should not be taken likely and said he expects the same stance from the other members of the House.
“We’ve seen what hurricanes can do. We’ve seen what happens when you don’t put the right precautionary measures in place and I think it is clear and easy for everyone to understand that we need to stand up to these employers, who come to this country in positions of superiority over our people, to let them know that they (residents) are not robots, they can get hurt, they have families, they have life to protect and we are here to do that,” Fraser argued.
Premier promises probe
Responding to Fraser’s comments, Premier Andrew Fahie said he and Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley will look into the report.
“It shivered me when I heard you say it because this is the first I’ve heard it. [I shudder] to know that there would be employers who would be not only callous but so distasteful to have employees out even though the territory has announced a curfew,” the Premier stated.
“I want to give you the assurance that I will be asking the NEOC who they (the accused employers) are and also speak with you because you are correct. These are people’s lives and you can’t replace a life and when the territory, the state, announce that everyone has to be off the road, everyone has to be off the road whether it is private or whether it’s public.”
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