Vincentian Workers Stranded at Sea – Whose Responsibility?
On the occasion of International Workers Day, May Day as it is popularly known, SEARCHLIGHT extends warmest greetings to Vincentian workers and workers all over the world.
This year’s May Day holiday takes place in exceptional circumstances, for workers all over the world are faced not only with the health threat posed by COVID-19, but a dangerous and economically suffocating challenge of lay-offs, reduced employment opportunities and wage reductions from the downturn in global and local economies. In addition, workers have to cope with the inconvenience of restricted social interaction and the educational complications affecting their children who do not yet know when they can return to school.
In particular there is a group of workers, numbering more than 1000, who face additional problems this May Day. We refer to Vincentians employed by several cruise ship companies who are now stranded at sea on ships and desperate to come home. It is a most unwelcome situation to be in especially for workers, on May Day at that.
Unfortunately, controversy has been injected into the local situation by persons who seem to have their own agenda, which is definitely not in sync with national interests or the interests of the sailors, who by the very nature of their employment, were placed at a much higher risk of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
It has been suggested by some that the government is not doing enough to ensure the safe return of the cruise ship workers and is not giving enough support to the effort.
Based on the available facts, these accusations appear unjustified. But it is one thing to voice criticism of government policy or actions, quite another to deliberately misinform or distort, particularly in the midst of the crisis brought about by the COVID pandemic.
Clearly the matter of the repatriation of over 1000 sailors from a high risk environment is not a simple one and is beyond the power of the Vincentian government alone to resolve. But for some Vincentians to advocate that the cost of keeping our sailors in quarantine be placed on the backs of Vincentian tax-payers, when it should reasonably be the responsibility of the cruise ship operators, is unpatriotic.
This behaviour must be condemned in no uncertain terms, just as previous actions in appealing to foreign governments and international institutions to not give support to national projects on purely partisan and very spurious grounds deserved condemnation.
We are entitled to our own opinions as to how best to handle the crisis but this is no excuse for mischief-making, lies and distortion of facts. Our success in handling this crisis depends to a large extent on citizens working together for the common good.
Let us put the politics aside and give the Government negotiators the space they need to negotiate a reasonable agreement with the cruise ship operators. We all want our sailors to come home, but they must do so in a manner that is safe to them and everyone else and which will not unjustifiably place an additional burden on our economy which has already suffered so much damage at the hands of COVID-19.