MoBay Chamber makes appeal for local entertainers as tourism reopens

With the reopening of the tourism industry this week, Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce President Janet Silvera is petitioning for some breathing room for local entertainment acts on the hotel circuit who were left jobless due to the standstill caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at this week’s virtual Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, Silvera said singers, band members, dancers and other groups who provide live entertainment are “suffering” having lost all forms of income.

“They have had no work whatsoever, they have all been sitting down waiting for the industry to reopen because even if they didn’t have tourism, they had nothing else because neither could there be any other event outside of the tourism industry… all the industries in relation to entertainment were closed, so they are suffering,” Silvera argued.

“I believe that is one of the main reasons they believe they should not have any competition from the outside at this time because they are concerned that the pie for now is too small to be sharing with foreign artistes,” Silvera said further.

She said while she would not go as far as to call for international acts to be banned in the interest of local performers, they should be given priority.

“I am not going to say there shouldn’t be international acts, what I would say though is that it is important to ensure that your local people are given the best care as it relates to being employed,” she told the Monday Exchange.

Earlier this month, Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union (JFMAU) President Karen Smith pressed the Government to place a ban on foreign performers who operate in the tourism sector.

Smith had noted that the entertainment industry came to a total standstill in March, forcing creatives to turn to virtual platforms to showcase their products with little return for their efforts.

She argued that as governments worldwide begin to ease restrictions, much more uncertainty remains around how live entertainment will be managed, and what protocols will be put in place to protect creatives and their audiences.

Smith said one area of discontent within the tourism entertainment sector in Jamaica has been the importation of talent from other countries like Cuba and Dominican Republic.

“For nearly 10 years local dance groups, variety acts, singers, and bands have been shut out of employment, replaced by foreigners with work permits for large entertainment companies and Spanish hotels,” said Smith.

“Jamaican entertainers have been underemployed within the sector for far too long, making them even more vulnerable during this time of crisis. What will happen regarding job availability when the sector reopens? That uncertainty continues to plague entertainment practitioners whose plight has worsened in the face of COVID-19,” added Smith.

Her call, however, was not supported by the Entertainers of Jamaica Association (EJA).

According to EJA President Kaestner Smith, embarking on such a move would put Jamaica in breach of its obligations as a signatory to the 1973 Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) agreement, which was instituted to level the playing field options for the Caribbean Community. “If we’re receiving [benefits] from this agreement, why would would we cut off others from receiving the same?” the EJA president asked.

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