Calls mount for Gov’t to consider relief package for citizens to cushion impact of COVID-19

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The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) has joined several other organisations; including Private Sector bodies, to call for more comprehensive measures to be implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FITUG said while there are commendable parts of the National Coronavirus Task Force’s (NCTF) response, the need to do more remains. In a press statement, the body said that it is time the Government considers a comprehensive social and economic package from which all Guyanese benefits.

FITUG acknowledged the Government’s response in relation to hampers being distributed to needy citizens but questioned the criteria for determining who needs it more than the other person.

In this regard, the Union suggested that a sustainable distribution network be created with all Guyanese benefitting unless they refuse the assistance. They also called on persons in a position to assist the initiative, to do so.

Speaking to the point of the comprehensive social and economic package, FITUG identified some key areas which the Government should look at since apart from feeding themselves, Guyanese have other obligations which COVID-19 may hinder them from meeting.

FITUG posited “That no worker suffers any loss of pay. We urge the Government to lead by example and to work together with private employers to ensure that their employees do not unduly suffer; to approve direct financial support to self-employed and the jobless to ensure they are able to sustain their obligations and maintain their families; a complete waiver of income and value-added taxes for at least six months to cushion the hike in the cost-of-living; a suspension of electricity, water, phone and internet tariffs for all households for the next six months.”

Additionally, FITUG said Government should work out arrangements with hire purchase, commercial banks and other lending institutions for a suspension of payments for six months and rescheduling of debt obligations of workers and for those unemployed to be afforded a write-off of their indebtedness.

The umbrella Union body also urged that masks, gloves and other necessities be distributed to all Guyanese.

“At this time, it did not escape our attention that the lockdown comes as there was a decision to engage in a recount of the votes cast in the March 2, 2020 election. This is also a most pressing issue of our times. The FITUG contends that it should be concluded in short order for our country and people to move forward and for us to better address the COVID-19 issues that will linger on even after the health crisis is behind us”.

“The uncertainty that prevails is unhelpful and a count that is credible and supervised by reputable individuals and organisations should be pursued without any further delay,” the statement added while urging all Guyanese to take adequate precautions and heed the advice of medical experts.