The economic impact of COVID-19 is having a devastating effect on the global tourism industry, especially in the Caribbean which could see an escalation of poverty for workers. Unions affiliated to the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) from across the Caribbean held a virtual summit today to raise awareness of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on jobs and communities in the region.
The ITF and its 18 affiliated unions are calling on governments and employers to cooperate with trade unions to develop and implement a regional recovery plan that:
- Prioritises employment security
- Guarantees free, universal access to vaccines
- Re-establishes safe travel corridors
Globally the tourism industry accounts for over 300 million jobs. Travel restrictions have had a devastating effect on economies reliant on tourists. Many countries in the Caribbean rely heavily on tourism as an essential pillar of their economies and major contributor to GDP, in turn generating much needed employment in the region.
Tourism generates over $59 billion per year for the region. An estimated $26.4 billion has been lost due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Estimates also suggest that over 1.2 million jobs have been lost.
Not only have the job losses hit hard, but also the spending power of workers has been significantly reduced leading to the risk of widespread poverty and a stagnation of economic growth. Long-term development and recovery plans in the region are critical.
ITF General Secretary, Stephen Cotton said that: "The Caribbean is too important to ignore, and we have a duty to protect the infrastructure and livelihoods of those workers who make visiting so appealing to millions of tourists each year. We need a tripartite plan from governments, employers and unions for recovery. Listening to the concerns of our leaders today, it's clear that we need action now. Investment in developing regional transport infrastructure is a good place to start".
ITF Tourism Chair, David Messiah added: "My concern is that women and young workers are bearing a disproportionate number of job losses. These are the very groups of workers so critical to eradicating poverty in the Caribbean and needed in the industry's recovery. Our regional partners must work with us to re-establish safe travel corridors and assist in access to vaccines. We need a coordinated approach across the Caribbean and should not rely on individual nation states as this only adds to the confusion. We must develop a unified approach that pools our resources together."
ITF Regional Secretary, Edgar Diaz said "It is vitally important that workers do not feel forced to have the vaccination, education and engagement is key if we are to encourage participation. That's why establishing a tripartite approach is fundamental to success and not fear and intimidation of individual workers."
Trade union Leaders from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname, St Lucia, Trinidad took part in the summit.