For more than 40 years EG Clothing has survived by manufacturing and selling a wide range of school and industrial uniforms from its base at 194 Orange Street in Kingston.

But in recent days the sewing machines, which once hummed almost non-stop daily, have remained eerily quiet, only powering up to manufacture protective face masks made of cloth, which are now in demand as Jamaicans try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Most of the contracts which we would have received at this time are on hold so we have had to stagger the staff; but then we have gotten some masks to make, and if it was not for that we would have had to close as we would not have the finances to operate,” General Manager Yvette Lobban told the Jamaica Observer.

“Business is down about 60 per cent but I don’t expect this to last for too long,” added Lobban as she noted that the company is now only managing to pay its bills based on money it is collecting from work done in the past.

Lobban said while the business remains open she has had to stagger the staff with some persons working one week while others work the following week.

One of those employees working last week was Barrington “Gussie” Catnot who has been with the company for more than 40 years.

“Since COVID-19 come it slowdown everything. Workers gone home and work is still here that not completed and we had to stop,” Catnot told the Observer in the mostly deserted store close to Torrington Bridge.

“Mi co-workers them gone home and them want to work some money to feed their families,” said Catnot.

“It is just five of wi working right now while the rest of 10 out deh a bawl fi come back to their jobs. With no work their families are at risk and everybody a complain,” added Catnot as he noted that pre-COVID-19 the business employed up to 15 people full-time.

“We turn to some masks now but the money not flowing like it supposed to. The masks keep we going a little and that is why the door open but that is not enough. We a try we best but the mask alone can’t do, so we a try to keep going until this thing over,” declared Catnot.

He said his colleagues are hopeful that with schools scheduled to reopen in September there will be the usual rush for uniforms to give the business a boost.

“If the doors can remain open for back-to-school we might see an improvement but right now everything standstill. We still a prepare fi back-to-school but it is a pain right now. The best thing we might have to do is bring back employees one, one, because we can’t take back everybody one time,” said Catnot as he echoed the expectation of his general manager.

While accepting the danger of COVID-19 and the cost that Jamaica is facing to deal with the pandemic, which has been linked to the deaths of nine people locally and more than 360,000 worldwide, Catnot is urging the Andrew Holness Administration to see what more it can do to help his hurting colleagues and the thousands of other Jamaicans who have lost their jobs or have had their salaries cut in recent days.

“I would like to see the Government really try something, the best way, to help poor people because the people dem hungry and I would like fi see the Government get on top of this and create more avenues fi poor people, because with this a lot of people hungry and deh home not earning a dollar,” added Catnot.

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