The closing of the Territory’s borders devasted the tourism industry and resulted in the
temporarily laying off of numerous hospitality and tourism sector workers. The situation of
these persons was raised by Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn as he announced that
this Coronavirus situation is causing panic in the community and economic hardship.
While speaking at the House of Assembly on 27 March the Leader of the Opposition explained
the woes of the unemployed tourism sector workers by showing how the closure of the
borders as a COVID-19 precautionary measure spawned a situation that is not only economical
but social as well.
As an insight to the dire state that many persons are in, Hon. Penn gave an example of some
of the closures and alluded to the individual impact this would have. “The closure has brought
a halt to economic activity in our tourism space: let’s be honest about it. You have all our
major resorts have practically shut their doors. One in my District, Scrub Island, has laid off
close to 300 staff. Dream Yacht charters – 300 staff lost their jobs. I got a call about The
Moorings who have also laid off their staff for three months…without pay I might add. I am
sure many others would follow suit,” he told members of the House of Assembly.
While noting that he supported the measures taken to safeguard the Territory Hon. Penn
pointed out that the situation has resulted in off-shoot difficulties for residents. “The reality
is if we have shut our borders the equal and opposite reaction is they don’t have customers
coming to their hotels; so they can’t keep those doors open unless they have customers.”
As he further sought to give a report on the state of the community the Opposition Leader
said that residents are worried. “You have persons who are now panicking and uncertain.
There is an uncertain future in terms of where would I be, how would I put food on the table
for my family in the next three months. These are real questions. These are real concerns.
These are bread and butter issues being face by many families around this Territory. Many
single parents who live off of subsistence wage, who depend on not even their salaries from
these resorts but their tips. Their tips …help them to feed their children, feed their families.”
“I am sure there are many families right now who are concerned how are they going to put
food on the table for the next six days. They have been out of a job, the resort has closed.
They don not have a paycheck coming in. They need to have some kind of support or some
inkling that support is coming to help them get through this difficult period. I know many of
the members here have gotten those calls of concern. The calls of how am I going to survive.
How am I going to pay my rent and landlords are already calling saying look I want my place
you have to come up. These are real concerns not just for the Belongers but the people who
came to this country and call this country home. Who have contributed to the economy,’’
Hon. Penn announced.
The Leader of the Opposition therefore called on the Government to bring the promised
stimulus plan to alleviate the worries of the residents. Additionally, he said that the
Government needed to also consider various means to help take off the pressure being faced
“We have to figure out a way. We might have to put on hold rent to some of these offices
that we are about to take up while persons are home. We have to look at ways that we can
adjust this budget to ensure that the people of this Territory get the necessary support to get
themselves through this period…We have a social issue that is developing, we have a human
issue that is developing and we need to find a way to ensure that we put a package together
that can support our people or help them transition through this difficult times”.
Employers Taking Advantage
Meanwhile Hon. Penn said that some of the financial hardship are being caused by employers.
While noting that some business owners have been trying to manage the emergency situation
others have used COVID-19 as a scapegoat.
In explaining the situation Hon. Penn told the House of Assembly. “Mister Speaker a lot of the
businesses have done a good job in trying to help their employees transition during this period
and I want to commend those businesses who continue to pay their employees even though
they are working at home, they are working remotely, being good corporate citizens to their
employees and this Territory.”
“There are those who are using the opportunity to just get rid of persons and do the opposite
and those persons when the time is right, they need to be dealt with. We need to keep a list
and check it twice because those employers who have taken advantage of a bad situation and
have put many of their employees on the street have to be held accountable for their
actions,” he added.