WILLEMSTAD–Curaçao has asked the Netherlands for help to deal with the consequences of the lockdown. Since last week Sunday, most businesses and all stores hops had to close, except supermarkets and pharmacies, where social distancing is practiced, and residents may only on go certain days depending on the identification number of their mandatory ID card.
The airport has already been closed to incoming travellers for three weeks. Due to the decline in tourism and other economic activities –as a result of measures against the spread of the corona virus- the Dutch Caribbean country’s government says it needs nearly 400 million euros for the next three months. That amount would then be used to pay unemployed persons a monthly stipend to support themselves.
Government also wants to finance compensation for companies that have had to cut more than a quarter of their staff salaries. Self-employed persons and small entrepreneurs without personnel should also be compensated in this proposal.
Curaçao says that it does not have the money itself and that it cannot borrow this on the international capital market.
There is an emergency fund for businesses and the self-employed who are victims of measures to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 on the island. More than 1,300 people had registered for this by Friday.
This was announced by Minister Hensley Koeiman of Social Development, Labour and Wellbeing SOAW during a press conference about the latest developments. He emphasised that employers and employees must come together out of a situation “that we did not cause ourselves.”
“Everyone knows this is the case worldwide. We need to find a healthy and sensible solution based on empathy, solidarity and responsibility.” This goes for employers, but just as much for employees. Because anyone who now stands firm and demands a full salary, will soon be in trouble.
“Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish,” said Koeiman. “It is of no use to destroy a company, because then you will lose your job anyway. However, an employer should not just lay off staff. If the company can start up again, it will lose the good, skilled employees.”
The Ministry of SOAW is overloaded with calls to number 9320 from people who have questions about employment matters. The lines became overcrowded, which is why more officials and electronic devices have been engaged. “There is a lot of fear about how employee interests are safeguarded,” said Koeiman. The extent to which the Ministry of SOAW will be able to register and assist all people who are in trouble depends on how long the crisis lasts.
“Let’s hope two or three months and no longer,” said Dois Gijsbertha of SOAW. “Otherwise, the consequences will be even more devastating.” Gijsbertha advocates a dialogue between employer and employee. The Ministry acts as an intermediary in case of malicious practices. The aim is to keep as many people as possible at work. “Call and register the complaint. Then we will take action without mentioning the name of the complainant.”
The motto is to remain calm and respect the law. Gijsbertha emphasised that there are enough companies of goodwill. As an example, he mentioned one that has agreed in consultation with staff to pay 75 per cent of their salary. A food importer pays part of the wages with a package of products. “Do nothing thoughtlessly and recklessly,” Gijsbertha tells business owners. “When we have finished this challenge, we need to see how we return to a healthy situation.”
SOAW has categorized the sources of unrest, such as: dismissal without payment, shortening working hours, compulsory unpaid leave, losing the right to vacation and without consultation reducing wages. “Legislation clearly stipulates the conditions under which a person may be fired,” said Gijsbertha. “Only if there is a mutual agreement can a dismissal follow, otherwise a permit must be applied for. It is not possible to go home without a salary. Employers should be able to pay out at least the month of March.”
The starting point of the mediation by SOAW is that employers and employees find a solution together. But some things are simply not possible. Gijsbertha: “It is not possible to have someone who is required to be put in quarantine on holidays. This person is not ill and cannot do anything about it.”
But there are also workers who try to abuse the situation. Gijsbertha cites people who perform a vital function as an example. “Then you can’t just stay at home. That is absenteeism. We have spoken to such a company staff and they are back to work.” There will be more information about the eligibility criteria for the emergency fund and the amount involved.
Meanwhile, authorities announced that if someone is out on the street between 6am. and 9 pm for no valid reason as indicated, they will be breaking the rules and must pay the transaction. The government sets strict and concrete rules for the reasons and times that a citizen can be on public roads during the day. Failure to comply will result in a fine of NAf 750.
Naturally, all other transaction amounts already mentioned in previous press releases, such as the amount of NAF 750 if someone is on the street between 9pm and 6 am (during the so-called curfew) will remain in effect.
The prosecution warns everyone to strictly follow these measures regarding the prevention of COVID-19 to prevent further infection, but also to avoid a transaction amount that can increase if it goes to court.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/curacao-asks-for-400-million-euros