HEADLINES

BVI: Economy ‘bust’? Layoffs continue following Hurricane Irma – Would the Virgin Islands Government be next?

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ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI (Virgin Islands News Online)- We all remember Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL) claiming for years that the Virgin Islands’ economy was “robust.”
This turned out not to be the case as statistics from his own Departments showed the fall off in the Financial Services Sector and tourism arrivals were down. Many of his own Government Backbenchers also disputed the notion.
Now following Hurricane Irma and Maria, both Category 5 storms, the Virgin Islands (VI) is now feeling the effects in the area of unemployment.
Many businesses have started laying off workers with immediate effect. They include the giant law firm Harneys; premier food chain, Road Town Wholesale; the biggest marina on Tortola, Nanny Cay Hotel and Marina; Scrub Island Resort and Spa; BVI Cable TV; and Long Bay Hotel to name a few.
Some of the Trust Companies have also laid off workers as well as some small enterprises that include restaurants, auto stores and car rentals.
It’s the Hurricane stupid!
Many have blamed the direct effect of Hurricane Irma on their businesses, loss of revenue, significant damages to their physical buildings, to boats, cars, and loss of goods. Some of the staff have pulled out and left the British Overseas Territory of the VI.
It remains unclear if many public and central government departments will also follow in laying off public sector workers. Premier Smith has not addressed this matter; however, he announced the delay in payment for the end of September 2017 salaries and called for time sheets to be submitted.
The fallout from Hurricane Irma, which hit the VI on September 6, 2017 causing death, destruction and panic, has set back the Territory’s economy, as some 25% of residents, young people, students and work permit holders have fled the country.
What’s your plan Government?
The sometimes public relations savvy National Democratic Party (NDP) has been silent on its plans to address the unemployment situation, along with any recovery plan.
The Labour Department Commissioner Janice I. F. Rymer told our newsroom that her office will announce some clarification as to the difference between layoffs and termination and what employees are eligible for under Section 107 of the Labour Code dealing with severance pay.
On the bright side, one Telecommunications Company, Digicel (BVI), said it was not laying off staff but instead was hiring workers.

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