The country’s manufacturers believe that current safety protocols among essential services prove that all parts of the sector are ready and able to come back out to work.
In a release on Thursday, the TT Manufacturers’ Association said the performance of the 273 manufacturers classified as essential services should be enough to confirm that the “robust guidelines and protocols that the sector has put in place…are working, and working well.”
These protocols include hygiene control, shuttles for staff where possible to minimise use of public transport, no external visitors to factories, working from home, and shift systems incorporating social distancing, proper protective wear and additional training.
To date there has been no known case of covid19 spread in a factory setting in TT, the association said.
The TTMA is therefore advocating that its remaining members (and other manufacturers) be allowed to open and operate – especially given that they are bound by the same guidelines and protocols under which the essential businesses have been operating.
“The TTMA believes that the litmus test undertaken by operating manufacturers supports the call for a reconsideration of the scheduled date and an immediate reopening of the sector.” TTMA president Franka Costelloe said in the release that there was no solid rationale for sustaining the closure or for denying manufacturers the opportunity to go back to work and to put their people back into employment.
On behalf of the TTMA, she has also written to the Prime Minister, the roadmap to recovery team and the Minister of Health to request this waiver for the sector on Monday (May 18).
About 1,000 companies comprise the manufacturing sector. Of those, 530 are registered members of the TTMA and 273 are classified as essential businesses.
“This means that an average of 50 per cent of (TTMA members) have been safely operating over the past eight weeks and have successfully managed to control the spread of the covid19 virus over a sustained period,” the release said.
About 52,000 people work in the sector, and with the reduced headcount permitted to work, some 15,000, or 30 per cent, are essential staff who now been tested by the system during the mandatory lockdown. And even with so many companies up and running, the country still recorded a steady and sustained decline in covid19 cases.
The association applauded the government’s swift response to handling the crisis, closing borders and setting up a parallel health system and other efforts to control the spread locally.
“It must be noted that during this period of lockdown, the food and beverage, agro processing, cleaning products, hygiene, pharmaceutical, food packaging and personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers (within the sector) have continued to operate as essential services,” the TTMA said.
Securing jobs, stabilising the economy and keeping families protected are an urgent matter, it said, and manufacturing workers are eager to get back to business.
The delay is also weakening TT’s hold on trade and earning much needed foreign exchange for the country, especially when energy earnings are down, Costelloe added. Year-on-year, export figures for TT from March 28 to April 29 fell by an alarming 66 per cent, or just over $283 million. As of April 14, non-essential businesses have export orders valued at about $103 million. “A continued loss in export revenue for TT cannot be sustained, especially with the current $934 million spent by the government on covid19 relief,” the TTMA said.