In a press release this afternoon, Dr McNeill said he was hoping that there will be action to back up these recent announcements and that it doesn’t turn out to be just words.
“Words are not enough. The fact that three years after assuming office, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett still has not implemented the pension scheme for tourism workers and this is telling. It suggests that it is not a priority for the Minister,” the Shadow Minister said.
The pension scheme was developed and approved under the Portia Simpson Miller-led cabinet and was set to be implemented in January 2017, over two years ago.
“Minister Bartlett has already given more than four missed deadlines and we are demanding that the Minister at least table the Bill when he makes his contribution in the upcoming sectoral debates or he may as well not bother to participate,” Dr McNeill argued.
The reality is that despite the tremendous investment in the tourism sector over the last few years, our GDP growth remains relatively anaemic and 5 in 4 remains a fleeting dream.
For tourism to be the driver of economic growth, we must have better linkages and, the average employee in the sector must receive more benefits.
“I still believe that despite having a first class tourism industry and first-class hotels that too many of our workers still opt, on a moment’s notice, to drop everything to go away on a hotel programme,” Dr McNeill lamented.
There must be a holistic review of the workers’ plight; their work conditions, the contract system, wages, housing and other benefits such as the long-awaited pension scheme.
“In aiming for a first world tourism product, we must invest in our greatest asset, the people of Jamaica who work assiduously to make us the great destination we are. There is no doubt that happy employees will make for an even more successful sector,” he said.
Dr McNeill is imploring the Minister to move beyond public relations and act immediately.
“I remain committed to fighting for the best conditions for tourism workers and urge the government to dust off the plans that were left in place and continue the progress that can lead to real prosperity for ALL Jamaicans,” Dr McNeill indicated.
The Opposition has been calling on the government to examine the conditions of employment for all contract workers including those employed by the government. With regard to tourism, Dr. McNeill spoke to this issue in his sectorial presentation July last year and urged the Minister to act.
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