Some GovGuam employees come under scrutiny as private sector layoffs continue

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Tumon has become a ghost town as tourism arrivals drop resulting in the layoff of hundreds of tourism workers.

With the extension of the public health emergency on Guam to April 13, more businesses will be forced to stay closed and many may decide to close shop altogether or lay off more people.

Hotels on Guam, one of the biggest employers on the island, are reeling from the lack of tourists and according to the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, hundreds of workers have already been laid off.

With the layoffs, some employees in the private sector are angry that GovGuam workers continue to be paid during the coronavirus shutdown.

Lawrence, a NewsTalk K-57 listener, complained that private sector employees are the ones suffering during this crisis: “I don’t think government employees should get any relief funds since they are already comfortable and receiving their salary while others are suffering. What’s frustrating is many of us who were released from our jobs because of the crisis are not receiving any leave payment and we’re not on paid leave. We are the ones suffering not knowing if we will be employed soon to get back on our feet.”

He added: “Government employees are receiving administrative leave, still receiving benefits and blatantly bragging about it. One director even mentioned this is a vacation and it’s easy money. How insensitive. And now our senators are in the same mindset on vacation and easy money.”

But a Legislature staffer, who preferred to be anonymous, told PNC that this is an unfair accusation as GovGuam workers continue to work despite the shutdown.

He said hospital, police, fire and other essential personnel continue to be on duty and even at harm’s way as frontliners in the war against COVID-19 and that those sent home by the GovGuam shutdown continue to work remotely.

In addition, Adelup, the governor’s office, and member agencies in the Joint Information Center continue to work hard to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and inform the people about the latest developments.

The island’s senators are also set to go back to work with an emergency session on Tuesday, March 31.

Reactions

Following are some comments from PNC’s Facebook readers:

RL Duenas wrote: “All, please do not categorize this as an umbrella statement for all GovGuam employees. Yes, it’s disheartening that some people can be so insensitive or immature about such things. Know that many who are not identified as essential health, safety or public utilities are teleworking from home and/or making sacrifices to help others in the community during this crisis, they are not in the mindset of vacation mode.”

Emmy Maratita reacting to RL Duenas wrote: “Agreed. Like for instance teachers. I know of many teachers who are still working from home to ensure that students continue to learn during this time. On top of working from home there are some teachers that have children of their own. So while others brag about extended vacation others still put hours in and don’t see it as vacation. In fact, it is a lot more difficult but we all learn to adapt!

Harvey Egna wrote: “It certainly doesn’t appear as if the risk is shared. GovGuam had no cutback unlike CNMI which reduced its gov and salaries by 20%. Granted we need our emergency and med staffs….but why can’t admin store cut back 20% to show they are part of the team and share in this effort?

Ralph Limtiaco wrote: “Without the private sector, there would be no salaries to pay.”

Paul Zanoni wrote: “Stimulus bill should apply only to those whose hours were cut and for those who lost jobs due to this pandemic. What’s fair is fair.

Stephen Hattori wrote: “GovGuam employees are either working or at home. If you see them galavanting during working hours then report them. I think that the vast majority of the GovGuam employees are staying home.”

Joyce Siguenza wrote: “I work throughout this crisis and am a gov’t employee.”

VincentJoleen GuzmanCruz wrote: “Some people like us are still working and we are on the frontline of all this.”

JamesnNina Terlaje wrote: “Happens on the federal side too. Not just GovGuam.”

Michelle Miranda Camacho wrote: “Most government workers continue to work…at home.”

Private sector woes

The Guam Chamber of Commerce confirmed that the private sector is hurting with a Chamber member poll showing that 87% of businesses say that they’ve had an adverse impact from the COVID-19 crisis.

The Chamber sent a survey to its members to evaluate how this pandemic has impacted doing business on Guam, what procedures businesses were taking to remain open and what kind of assistance was needed for companies to stay in business.

The survey revealed that of the austerity measures implemented, almost all the respondents have had to reduce employee hours, implement furloughs or layoffs. Other measures implemented by businesses include:

  • Reduction in community contributions;
  • Immediate freeze on expenditures;
  • Reduction of inventory;
  • Elimination of employee benefits;
  • Temporary closure of business; and,
  • Implementation of social distancing and remote work protocols.

Businesses were asked what measures would benefit their companies in this period of uncertainty and an overwhelming majority (60% of respondents) responded that a temporary reduction in the business privilege tax would be most beneficial to their businesses. 19% indicated that increasing the benefits of the Dave J Santos Small Business Act would be helpful and 7% would be interested in a small business loan.

If the business privilege tax was reduced, 65% of respondents would use savings to maintain and retain employees. 22% would reinvest in business improvements. Others would pass the savings on to consumers and pay business obligations.

When respondents were asked to indicate if the Government of Guam was doing enough to help the business and its employees during this time of economic uncertainty, 77% responded that the government wasn’t doing enough while 16% responded that they were not sure, 5% responded affirmatively while 2% chose not to respond.

“The results of this survey confirm that our economy has been devastated by this global pandemic. The Coronavirus crisis has significantly impacted doing businesses on Guam and will have severe repercussions on our people’s ability to sustain themselves and their families,” said Christine Baleto, chairwoman of the Chamber board.

When asked to provide additional recommendations to the government in terms of relief for businesses, the most offered suggestion was any form of tax relief in the form of credit or exemption. Additional suggestions included lower cost of utilities, establishing a relief program to assist employers and employees, and a cut in government spending.

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