Untold stories

Out on duty - Two RSIPF officers on duty last night along the Point Cruz CBD during the first night of the mock curfew Photo Peter Zoleveke II
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-Government’s state of emergency playing into hands of employers, also exposing evil deeds

-Indigenous employees fall victim

By Alfred Sasako

THE State of Emergency, declared by the Government on Friday, March 27 in the fight to keep the deadly COVID-19 at bay appears to be working against Solomon Islands indigenous workers in a number of industries.

The State of Emergency has since been extended by four months with the introduction of new emergency measures, including a nine-hour nightly curfew starting at 8pm last night.

Police will set up roadblocks between Alligator Creek and Poha River – the area declared as emergency zone under the state of emergency. Those who defy the curfew face a $10, 000-fine or a five-year jail term

But these measures are having a toll on the very people they were set out to protect.

Many who have been made redundant because of the COVID-19-induced state of emergency orders told Island Sun their employers never gave them a penny when they told us “we were being laid off.”

Tourism-related industries such as hotels and restaurants are the hardest hit.

One large hotel stood down almost 200 workers, but under-reported the figure on the number of workers it had stood down.

“We are in a very bad situation,” one redundant worker told Island Sun earlier this week.

“They told us almost on the spot that due to the COVID-19 measures introduced by the government, the company was not in a position to keep us. That is fine. We understand that, but they should at least pay us some money, because these are big companies.

“In our case, they did not,” one redundant worker told Island Sun earlier this week.

“We have families. What they did to us is inhumane and immoral. These companies should be made to fulfill their social responsibilities to their staff,” she said.

“Some of us actually asked if we could take our annual leave so that at least we can have some money to live on. That request too was refused,” the worker said.

One other worker said she was paid for the four days of work before she was told she was being stood down.

“But when I checked my bank, the $300 or so paid into my account had been deducted to cover my loan repayment. I had thought the banks were putting loan repayment on hold until the state of emergency was over. Now I know it is not true,” she said.

Another worker who was made redundant last week said her employer had not even paid her anything when she was told she was being stood down. While trying to withdraw her savings from the National Provident Fund (NPF) under the government waiver, she found out she had only $800 in her NPF account.

“My employer has been deducting NPF contributions from my pay since 2012 when I started. Now it seems he has not been making payments on my behalf to the NPF,” she said.

It was reported that The NPF planned to audit companies along the Kukum Highway to White River. It is not clear whether the planned audit has begun.