George Town, Exuma – On the heels of the closure of the Four Seasons Hotel on Emerald Bay, a two-day counseling seminar was held for disengaged workers at the Exuma Educational Resource Centre, Hoopers Bay.
Themed ‘How to cope when there seems no hope’, the sessions were spearheaded by the Department of Labour in conjunction with the National Insurance Board, and a cross–section of public and private agencies including the Ministry of Health, Department of Social Services, Bank of The Bahamas, Bahamas Development Bank, commercial banks and churches.
The seminar was held less than two weeks after Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham told parliamentarians that such an exercise would take place.
“What we see is a broad-based and a local-based infusion,” said Leslie Curtis, Chief Labour Officer at the Exuma Department of Labour. “The local base put together a committee spearheaded by the Chief Administrator, Ivan Ferguson, that brought all the relevant department heads together.
“The other area is one spearheaded by the Department of Labour, the Minister of Labour, and the Director of Labour, which is broader based and includes a psychologist and other central government agencies.
“We’re going to assess the packages from the labour perspective to ensure that all disengaged workers receive their just due by law. If there are any infractions, we’ll seek to have them corrected.”
He said people were encouraged to complete an assessment form, which gave their employment history. That information would be used to determine what their redundancy packages would include.
He commended Four Seasons for having “gone above and beyond what is required by law.”
The minimum package for line staff is two weeks pay in lieu of notice and two weeks pay for each completed year. Supervisors not under contract are to receive one month’s pay in lieu of notice and one month’s pay for each completed year, he explained.
According to Chief Counsellor Theodore Clarke, there are a number of projects lined up for Exumians.
“We at Local Government are also providing stimulus packages to assist the local people,” said Mr Clarke. “Currently, there are a number of projects going on. The Ministry of Education is providing about $100,000 which will be put to tender for repairs to school buildings and other projects.
“Local Government also has several capital projects going on and so we are trying to get the local people to come in and bid on these projects.”
Psychologist Carol Roberts was also on hand to offer counseling services. Her role, she said, was necessary in the healing process.
“My role is basically to address the psychological issues that persons may face as a result of being unemployed,” she said. “However, I do feel that the impact of what has happened has not really affected people psychologically as yet because right now they are more concerned with basic needs.
“A lot of times the psychological impact of trauma is delayed until reality strikes and that can happen a month or two from now,” Dr Roberts said.
Among areas highlighted during the seminars were agriculture, fisheries, light manufacturing, transportation and entrepreneurship.
CAPTION for photo above: Massage therapist Dorcas Shuttleworth, helps disengaged workers at a counselling session held for unemployed Exumians.