BackgroundThe world of work is being profoundly affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the threat to public health, the economic and social disruption threatens the long-term livelihoods and wellbeing of millions. The ILO and its constituents – Governments, Workers’ Organizations and Employers’ Organizations – will play a crucial role in combating the outbreak, ensuring the safety of individuals and the sustainability of businesses and jobs1. An initial assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the global world of work says the effects will be far-reaching, pushing millions of people into unemployment, underemployment and working poverty, and proposes measures for a decisive, coordinated and immediate response2.
Governments from the Caribbean Region have announced several measures to deal with COVID-19 and some are exploring stimulus packages to assist businesses and workers. Most businesses are forced to shut down and others to cut-down on operating hours. Workers are encouraged to telework to curb further spread. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have serious economic consequences. According to Dr Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, the tourism-dependent economies in the Caribbean where the sector employs approximately 2.4 million people and contributes more than $62 billion to the Region’s GDP (2018) are most likely to be affected by an economic slowdown linked to travel. The impact is currently being felt in the cruise industry as many Caribbean governments deny porting to some vessels. Additionally, the decreasing demand for fuel will have a negative impact on the Region’s oil exporters- Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname3.
Some Employers’ Organisations (EOs) in the Region are providing guidelines to employers on how to deal with COVID-19 in their workplaces such as Dominica Employers’ Federation, Employers’ Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados Employers’ Confederation amongst others. Dominica Employers’ Federation is also collecting data on how the private sector is processing COVID-19 absences. Many of the EOs are also engaged in tripartite discussions with the aim of co-creating solutions.
Objectives and modalities of the meetingThe purpose of the information sharing session is to provide a virtual space/platform for Employers’ Organizations in the Caribbean Region to share information on (i) measures put in place by Governments to deal with the economic effects of COVID-19 in the immediate and short term, and (ii) measures put in place by EOs and guidance provided to members on dealing with COVID-19 in the workplaces including some of the concerns/questions from member enterprises. The ILO will (i) share information on what other EOs in the world are doing and Governments responses, (ii) present proposals on what could be fiscally feasible for the Caribbean Region, and (iv) share some proposals on data that could be collected by enterprises and EOs to assess the immediate to short and medium impact of COVID-19 in the workplaces with the aim of supporting Employers’ policy advocacy initiatives. Additionally and most importantly, the session provide an opportunity for the ILO to receive comments and inputs on technical and practical support the Office could provide to Employers’ in these times of uncertainty.
1. ILO COVID-19 and the world of work https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/lang--en/index.htm
2. ILO https://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm
3. Presentation delivered by Dr Ram, UWI Vice-Chancellors meeting 09 March 2020