JAMAICA |Union says Jamaican workers are being exploited to the point of slavery

JAMAICA |Union says Jamaican workers are being exploited to the point of slavery

KINGSTON,July 23, 2021 -  Jamaica: The National Workers Union (NWU) says Jamaican tourism workers are being exploited to the point of slavery with their rights being marginalized and worker protection almost non-existent.

In a statement today, the National Workers Union ways “while it understands the great blow that COVID-19 has dealt to the Jamaican tourism sector, and thereby the Jamaican economy, as the sector reopens and implements coping strategies, the rights of workers have become more marginalized and worker protection has become almost non-existent.  Unfortunately, the tourism sector is not the only sector in which this atrocity occurs.”  

“What is occurring in the tourism sector can only be described as modern day slavery,” the NWU says.  The union says it “understands the need to focus on improving hotel occupancy and the business side of things, however, it cannot be to the detriment of the human capital, of which the sector can be nothing without.”

“As recovery begins to take place, we have seen where workers are being asked to work more hours for less pay and no benefits.  We must never forget that during this pandemic many workers have had to make unbelievable sacrifices while still showing up and giving of their best,” the union observed.  

According to the NWU, “Many have experienced layoffs, reduced salaries, redundancies, and all have experienced increased cost of living on a depreciating salary.  Many of them will not return to normalcy any time soon, as it relates to the salary levels at which they were contractually engaged.  Several companies, in the sector, who have exercised these deleterious options, have treated work as a commodity, which flies in the face of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda to which Jamaica is signatory.”  

The NWU maintains that the workers are lamenting that if they do not take some of these measures, there will be no employment.  What much of this has resulted in is that fewer workers have had to take on the work of those on layoff or made redundant while completing their own tasks.  They do not get extra pay for the additional work being done, nor do they get full pay for the work they are contracted to do.   This is leading to and has led to burn out of the workers, both physically and mentally.  Furthermore, if they refuse they are looking at unemployment for the foreseeable future.”  

The NWU has called on Jamaica’s Parliament and Government in particular, to pay more than lip service to protecting the rights of Jamaican workers.  The Occupational Safety and Health Bill has been delayed for over 25 years, to the detriment of the Jamaican worker.  Our history has shown that a Government has no qualms in pushing through legislation that they deem important,” the Union says.  

“Better policing by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and its agencies/departments is needed to ensure workers are being protected in this pandemic and that they have ease of recourse where discrepancies occur,” the union says. 
“One way to start is to make it easier for workers to become unionized in any industry or sector.  What we find is that in the tourism sector, where workers are unionized, while there were moments of contention, the management of workers and company rights were dealt with fairly.  Most workers are not, and in many instances are fearful of being unionized and this has caused great malady.  


“As the working poor continues to increase as a group in this country, due in part to the pandemic but it is by no means the only or the major reason, the NWU is calling on the Parliament of Jamaica and the owners of capital to consider the country’s human resources.  

‘As we see the issues affecting doctors, nurses, teachers, sanitation workers, we remain concerned that work is not an important consideration for our Parliament and owners of capital.  We must develop a recovery plan that has workers at its core.  Anything else will lead to malaise and despair.  The Jamaican workers have suffered enough.  We caution those who have ears to hear that 1865 happened, 1938 happened, it can happen again,’ the union concludes.  


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