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Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson, makes her contribution to the 2019/20 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on July 9.
Photo: Rudranath Fraser

Story Highlights

  • The dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has been wreaking havoc throughout the local economy, is testing the mettle of Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson.
  • In addition to her responsibility for the Ministry, which is the Government’s link between employers and workers, Mrs. Robinson is also the Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann, one of the constituencies hardest hit by the fallout from COVID-19, as it relates to displaced workers, notably within the tourism sector.
  • “It is a serious balancing act being Minister for all the people and also being responsible for a constituency that has seen hotel and attraction closures, including the Caribbean’s number-one attraction, Dunn’s River Falls,” Mrs. Robinson tells JIS News.

The dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has been wreaking havoc throughout the local economy, is testing the mettle of Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson.

In addition to her responsibility for the Ministry, which is the Government’s link between employers and workers, Mrs. Robinson is also the Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann, one of the constituencies hardest hit by the fallout from COVID-19, as it relates to displaced workers, notably within the tourism sector.

“It is a serious balancing act being Minister for all the people and also being responsible for a constituency that has seen hotel and attraction closures, including the Caribbean’s number-one attraction, Dunn’s River Falls,” Mrs. Robinson tells JIS News.

“The result is that a lot of workers, ranging from craft traders, transport operators, tour guides, hotel and attraction workers and many others, are now out of jobs and facing an uncertain future, as no one for sure knows when this global pandemic will subside,” she adds.

Mrs. Robinson says her constituency, like others in rural Jamaica, also faces another challenge in that many vulnerable persons are located in remote communities.

“I take this opportunity to implore my constituents firstly to follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, to access the social security support we have provided for you, and work with us as we chart the path for containing the COVID-19 and ultimately economic and social recovery,” the Minister implores.

“Remember the requirements for social distancing and stay home unless you are participating in essential activities. Seniors are encouraged to have adequate supplies such as food, water, blood pressure and diabetes medication. I encourage persons to look out for our senior citizens, persons with disabilities and all vulnerable groups by extending care and support where necessary,” she says.

Mrs. Robinson points out that in light of the significant fallout already seen in the tourism industry, micro and small businesses, and other labour-intensive industries, the Government has moved quickly to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus and attend to other economic and social issues.

The Minister of Finance, she notes, has announced a stimulus package to support the business community and workforce, which is “extremely critical at this time” to reduce potential haemorrhage and extreme hardship for employers and workers.

She adds that the recovery strategy announced by the Tourism Ministry also complements “our own thrust” in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to encourage employers and workers to explore innovative and cutting-edge solutions to remain viable and recover quickly from this significant economic fallout.

“I implore employers and workers to work together on recovery strategies for the benefit of the company, the country, yourselves and family,” the Minister says.

“Now more than ever, social dialogue is essential and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security stands ready to support stakeholders in both the formal and informal sectors. I have always said that this Ministry addresses the needs of persons from the womb to beyond the tomb. We have been working assiduously to provide support to our vulnerable groups to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and have been focusing on communities that have been or may be quarantined in relation to the coronavirus,” Mrs. Robinson notes.

To ensure that the society’s most vulnerable are protected, the Ministry has also undertaken a number of initiatives, including the handover of over 3,000 care packages to households in quarantine.

Care packages, she says, were also provided for another 1,000 senior citizens, while beneficiaries on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) will receive their April payment early on Monday, April 6.

“Families with children will receive an additional amount of $1,200 per child in primary school and $1,500 for each child in secondary school. The Government has also allocated another $1.1 billion to provide an additional payment to all PATH beneficiaries in May,” the Minister notes.

“We have established hotlines so that you can reach us from wherever you are, and our social workers have been working tirelessly to expand our reach to persons in various rural and remote communities,” Mrs. Robinson tells JIS News.

“For social security assistance, persons are encouraged to call (888) 991-7284. We also recognise that some persons, not previously registered on our programmes, may become vulnerable at this time. The Ministry is committed to supporting them as we navigate our way through these challenging times. I pray for God’s abundant blessings on the people of Jamaica, those in the diaspora and everyone affected by the coronavirus or current fear of the virus,” the Minister says.

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