There are worries about what happens to workers if the borders do not open soon, says the Tourism Industry Council.
For expatriate workers, concerns are whether they will continue to be included in the next wage subsidy package, to be advised in September. Even with the subsidy, there’s already been a trickle of redundancies – and they worry it will grow to a flood.
At the weekend, Pacific Resort Hotel Group announced it had laid off staff in its head office, and was likely to have to cut more jobs still.
Fijian Association vice-president Savenaca Tukitoba said there were great concerns in the community. “On our part, as migrant workers, this Covid-19 time should be a preparation and learning curve for everyone,” he said.
“We have been saying from the beginning to start preparing for the worse, and for us it's going to be September.”
He believed the government would make the most reasonable and common-sense decision, come September, for the benefit of everyone.
“If the best solution for everyone is for us migrant workers to be repatriated back home, then at least we are going back home.”
The first two subsidy packages included expatriate workers, and they were also allowed out of their contracts.
This morning, the tourism industry as a whole will discuss its preparedness to reopen the border at an industry meeting at the National Auditorium.
Tourism Industry Council acting president Liana Scott said there was a great deal of concern about what happened if borders didn’t open soon, and how the wage subsidy was affected.
She warned, any thought that opening borders with New Zealand would result in a flood of visitors and a speedy return to normality was extraordinarily misplaced.
Government should seriously consider extending the wage subsidy past September, as companies needed to retain staff if they were to successfully emerge from hibernation.
“With little or no revenue and the end of the wage subsidy beyond September will mean employers will need to be giving notice before September ends to coincide with that withdrawal.”
She said the difficulties that this situation creates would be vast – repatriation would come at a huge cost.
“Repatriation is fraught with its own complications, because if the borders remain closed or the employee’s country of origin unreachable, what happens to these people?
“One month’s unemployment benefit would hardly suffice to keep these people with a decent living standard.”