The net cast by the country's limited state of emergency yesterday forced businesses to scramble and readjust their schedules for those operating in hot spot areas or to accommodate employees from those areas.Supermarkets, business places, restaurants and even the Port-of-Spain City Corporation assembled emergency meetings to adjust their working hours to have their workers out of the city before the 9 pm curfew. American Airlines cancelled two flights-one scheduled to leave Piarco at 11.05 pm and another scheduled to arrive at 6.50 am. The company said it "will continue to monitor the situation and make operational determinations as necessary."
Of concern to businesses was the efficiency with which passes could be secured to enable a fairly normal working routine, said Kerron Valentine, acting mayor of Port-of-Spain. He said effective immediately, all street washing in the capital city has been suspended for the 15-day state of emergency. The streets are usually washed in the early morning hours but the curfew would not permit it, said Valentine. He said an emergency caucus meeting was held yesterday morning to determine how the corporation and its employees would do its work, such as garbage collection, dog-catching, street-sweeping and night work. He said the Central Market would now open at 6 am and all workers would report to the corporation at 7 am.
"We have adjusted all the shift workers to suit the curfew hours. Workers who live around the city would run the first shift," he told the T&T Guardian. President of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) Dominic Hadeed said manufactures were aware they would have to pay overtime for a short period of time. Furthermore, for those manufacturing companies that work shifts, they have tried to roster people who work in the hot spot areas to do the day shift, he said.Hadeed said he hoped unions would make an allowance for workers in those circumstances. The Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) issued a release to remind all shift workers of their rights to demand adequate arrangements to ensure their safety "in pursuit of meeting the production requirements of their respective employers."
Hi-Lo Food Stores sent out an advisory stating that until further notice, all Hi-Lo Stores, FoodMasters & LB's Supermarkets would close at 6 pm. Dane Darbasie, managing director of Wendy's, said the curfew has had an "adverse impact on revenue stream." He pointed out that in his re-adjusted hours of 7 am-7.30 pm he would easily lose a quarter of his business in the coming days. He said the business was prepared to make the sacrifice on the assurance that in the long run they would benefit from a safer country. "The dinner crowd is a major part of any restaurant," he said. MovieTowne owner Derek Chin said the curfew could cause his enterprise hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business but it was a sacrifice that was essential to ensure the safety of T&T's citizens.
Chin said the cinemas and restaurants at Invader's Bay, while not a designated hot spot, had staff and patrons who live in areas where the curfew would be in effect. All restaurants would close early and the last movie would start at 5 pm. Grand Bazaar's general manager, Edward Ayin, said stores would be closed by 7 pm. While he did not expect big loses over the next few days, he said the mall's restaurants and bars within the plaza would be most affected. Ayin said Grand Bazaar was in full support of the curfew and all steps were being taken to ensure mall staff have adequate time to get home.
ASHA JAVEED and ALICIA LLANOS