Chester Hughes, Deputy General Secretary of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union says unemployment could triple if Covid-19 persist in the country in the coming months. Hughes told the Antiguan trumpet “Those who are still in a job should do everything to preserve their jobs. I am predicting that unemployment is going to be very high if this pandemic continues.
Antigua & Barbuda’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
“We have not just the hospitality workers who are at home, we also have airline industry worker’s and workers of other companies who would have been laid off because those companies are not meeting the budgetary expectations so they have to restructure their operations.
“We have a number of young people who are about to leave school, we have nationals who were abroad and have lost their jobs and are now home,” Hughes said. He also said the Government must plan for this and the greater demand on the public service with reduced revenues. “So it’s a combination of challenges that Government and the wider society will have to face, and prepare for. I honestly don’t think we are preparing ourselves adequately for the future living with Covid,” he said.
Hughes said the impact of the hotel workers on the local economy is missed. “I hope the country appreciates the hotel worker and their importance to the economy, because the hotel worker impacts the taxi’s, buses, supermarkets and retail operations etc. “I have done some research quite recently with one major supermarket, their sales are down nearly 35 per cent because persons don’t have that disposable income to shop the way they used to when they were employed” he said.
Hughes added, “the stores downtown will tell you that their sales are down. Some complaining that their sales are down 50-60 percent and may be forced to close because they are not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Deputy General Secretary also warned of difficult days ahead for people in this country as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. Hughes is calling on people to be prepared for the long haul, and to change their lifestyles to match the difficult economic times.
“I just want to say to every worker out there in society that now is the time for you to live as family. Now is not the time for you to live as individuals. Households must plan and budget around the minimum income that is being received instead of living individual independent lives,” Hughes said.
“This pandemic will not end right now. All indicators are showing that we have at least another year in this crisis. If we don’t plan properly a lot of persons are going to be bankrupt by the end of the year — bankrupt to the point where there’ll be stress out, anxiety attacks and even psychological issues.
“People are going to lose some of their assets. They’ve got to be prepared to do what they have to do to survive and to make sure that their assets are maintained because if they continue to live the life they are living, they are going to lose some of their most valuable prized possessions,” Hughes added.
“If you look around you see a lot of people vending that a telling sign of the state of the economy at this time. I am hoping that before it gets any worst that something happens, to bring a semblance of Hope, because for many September is going to be the toughest month of their lives, with schools reopening and no work” Hughes ended this interview by saying.