Extended shutdown worries workers


Shocked, disappointed, confused and even angry were some of the emotions being felt by workers at fast-food restaurants across the country yesterday, after the announcement by Government that their places of work will have to close their doors until April 30.

During a news conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley instructed that all fast-food restaurants, which had been previously allowed to operate as essential businesses to provide food to the country, should shut down operations until April 30 in order to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

For Andeline Cyrus, she had a mixture of all those feelings pent up inside her after hearing Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speak on the closures of all restaurants until month-end.

“The first thing when I hear about it, I start to say what the jail? Hear me nah, hmmm, how I going to pay my bills? I say how I going and pay my bills, how I going to live, what am I going to do?”

Cyrus has been working at Trini Food Court, a small restaurant in Chaguanas that serves local cuisine for breakfast and lunch, for five years and now manages the daily operations. She said if the business does not open she has no income to collect.

“When we work one week the next week you get paid for it, so if we close up we have no money coming in.”

There are ten people employed at the establishment.

Cyrus said she has a host of monthly commitments to meet, including utilities, groceries and caring for her young son.

“And now he’s not going to school it costing me more, because when he is in school he has certain times to eat but when he is home every minute he wants something, if I not working, where I getting the money to buy it?”

Although at the time Cyrus was speaking with Guardian Media she hadn’t spoken with her employers, she already had a fair idea on the grim future that lies ahead.

“I know right now, the way the sales are and how the business is, is not like they have the money to help out the workers. They rely on the daily sales to pay their workers and to pay their bills. So is not like they have money put away.”

Cyrus said she had previously tried applying for grants from the Government for assistance when school was closed but was faced with too much red tape and uncertainty.

“I don’t know my next move from here.”

In the same Chaguanas area, several other similar businesses said they were already feeling the pinch, with some already closed for the past few weeks due to slow sales and an abundance of caution.

But for bigger fast-food chains like KFC and Royal Castle, employees at the Chaguanas branches felt the same emotions but were reluctant to speak until they heard from their employers. All except one delivery driver who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

He said: “I feeling hurt because it is as if they are taking bread out of my mouth. I hope they supplying some kind of finance for me and my family.”

The driver depends solely on the daily deliveries for income.

“I wouldn’t have any employment at all,” he said, noting he is unsure of how to move forward.


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