Over the past 18 months, the sudden COVID-19 onset has amplified the need for many legal reforms, more urgent in light of the dark undersides of the beast we call Parliament. Several laws have had to be amended or abandoned, and many were found to be without the necessary regulations and lack of timely review and oversight.
This has highlighted the unsatisfactory performance of our Parliamentarians who, over decades, have ignored their responsibility in favour of political frivolity in the most important body representing our citizens.
Among these are the areas dealing with disaster risk management; child abuse; domestic violence; administration of vaccines; approval of medications; fines for withholding of information on child sexual abuse; sexual intercourse with minors; and more vigorous efforts centred around extradition of criminals and the proceeds of crime. Hurrah and congratulations to the Government, and I urge the Opposition to avoid the playing of games as they had their turn when they should have addressed these matters.
Foremost on my mind, however, is the critical situation arising out of COVID-19, and that is the efficacy of our labour laws. This is a sensitive situation that has arisen between employees and employers regarding the precautions of taking the vaccines. This is especially so in the growing areas of travel; tourism; tours; and entertainment; where face to face in close proximity is coupled with the exuberance of people interaction that is difficult to control.
It may be taken as a given that trade unions must take up positions in support of the workers over the perception of possible discrimination. They will not be disposed to accept a loss of their hard earned negotiations and firm positions against racial, gender; sexual preference, religious, and age discrimination, that are now embedded in the International Labour Organization.
On the other hand, the employers will react to any labour situations that will jeopardize their survival. So owners and operators of large public businesses must be concerned for the safety of their clients. These include airplanes; cruise ships; retail stores; music festivals; museums and exhibits; tours; overland transportation; and our own favourite local entertainment centers and watering holes.
The Prime Minister has announced new hours of curfew and arrangements for relaxing gatherings to some extent. However, it is presently unclear as to the requirements for vaccination, and we are still woefully short as a percentage of the total population to foster herd immunity. So we run the risk of starting another wave if we are not very careful.
I am aware that discussions are taking place behind closed doors, however there is a time limit to secrecy and the sooner the better as we have people’s livelihoods, business continuity, and an economic recovery to plan for. So while I can appreciate the political sensitivity of such talks (funders and voters); some urgent guidelines must surface in order to protect the entirety of the productive and revenue generating parts of the economy.
To be opaque is of no value and transparency is everything at this stage. It could be an important aspect that demonstrates exceptional leadership in a balanced way and an opportunity to realize a social partnership that will at last be seen as working. It is a chance for a win/win/win strategy for unions, employers, and the nation without having to put in draconian measures that have been stated in other countries.
Change does require high levels of consensus and cooperation in order to be effective. So while others are standing still and indecisive, let us be dynamic and proactive in a bid to pull ourselves out of the devastating mire of confused lethargy.