(Photo Credit: ) The BVI experienced some effects from Hurricane Dorian, including flooded streets.
Employers who forced their employees to work as hurricane Dorian was approaching, even after the NEOC urged for everyone to be indoors, were described by Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie as callous. In fact, the BVI Leader stated that both himself and the Minister for Labour, Hon. Vincent Wheatley, will be inquiring to find out who these employers are.
The report about the behavior of these unknown employers was made in the House of Assembly on September 2 by Third District Representative and Opposition Member, Hon. Julian Fraser.
In bringing the matter to the House, Hon. Fraser said that some employers showed little regard for their employee's safety and for the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) during the preparation for hurricanes Dorian, as they insisted that their staff stay and work.
Hon. Fraser said, “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 the talk of a curfew to be issued, in the private sector, employees were being asked to come to work and threatened.”
According to the Third District Representative, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) was informed about the situation and even attempts by NEOC officials to have the employers see reason failed. Hon. Fraser said that the employers responded unfavorably to the NEOC’s intervention into the matter.
As he called on legislators to take action on the matter Hon. Fraser said, “Mr. Speaker I think it’s incumbent on us as legislators to ensure, even before we saw what took place with hurricane Irma, to ensure that we don’t put our citizens at risk. If we knew long in advance that hurricane Dorian was going to pass over the BVI, we knew not what the consequences were going to be. To risk the lives of citizens out there in the morning...You can go to work yes, because it looks ok to go to work, but you don’t know about getting back home. It could be a lamppost, it could be a tree…”
Hon. Fraser added, “Mr. Speaker our legislation on curfew, our legislation on impending disasters has to be clear and concise. I think in my mind, as a former Minister of Labour that was a point at which the Minister of Labour could have intervened or should have intervened and I don’t know, but I am not taking this lightly and I don’t expect any of the 13 of us to do that either, to take it lightly.
In stating that action would be taken, Premier Fahie explained that he did not know about the situation.
“It's people’s lives; you can’t replace a life. When the Territory, the state announce that everyone is to be off the road, everyone is to be off the road, whether it is public, or it is private. It shiver me when I heard you say it, because it’s the first I have heard it. To know that there would be employers who would be so not only callous, but so distasteful…to have their employees out even although the Territory has announced a curfew that everyone should be home.”
As he announced that both himself and the Minister for Labour would be looking into the issue, the Premier said, “I could assure the members of this House that we would look into it. The Minister of Labour has heard you, so he would also work with us so that we could find out who these companies are and not only the companies, but to make sure that we make a statement that is clear. You would think that it would be clear that the state made a declaration that there is a curfew that the curfew covers everybody. I don’t think it should have need us to say public officers and private. It covered everyone so they should have been off the road not some businesses demanding that others be there. Even before the curfew given the conditions people should be more caring for their employees.”
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#WhoopsIMHO no Employer can demand an employee to come to work, at anytime. I believe the Master Servant scenario was abolished many many years ago. Threathing any one is certainly not done! Going along with performing work, since Government may make a distinction between essential and none essential workers, the private sector certainly has that same right. I agree that the Labour department should have other items much higher on their priority list. While the weather conditions were not ideal, there was No Hurricane and many roads were safely passable by most vehicles. I would not be surprised to see that many persons get their weather information and news from other sources than channels where the NEOC may broadcast on. I do believe there is no statuary obligation to listen to the NEOC, especially when there is no "National Emergency"... best of all no one got hurt.
TerrorOh the Minister for Labour and Premier has their hands full. The private sector is not what it seems. While this situation is bad, there are many more, such as working conditions, unfair treatment (verbal threats by expat managers), issues arranging time to exercise you democratic right (simple voting!)
Please set up a team in the Labour department that would visit these establishments and interview staff on a one-on-one basis and you will learn firsthand what our people go through. Some expats go through some crap too and their bosses are locals.