Guyanese must be paid same as expatriates – Labour Minister warns
…Ministry takes control of credit union after $13.3M disappears
Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton on Friday sounded a stern warning to foreign companies operating locally, that Guyanese must be paid equally as expatriate workers for the same workload.
During a press conference, he emphasised that the pay scale must be equal for both Guyanese and expatriate workers. This position came in light of reports that members of the local workforce are being paid less than their foreign counterparts for the same work.
The Minister said this cannot be the case and has elucidated this point very clearly during meetings with companies hiring Guyanese. He also shared that a worker’s right to form workers’ representative organisations, trade unions or to join unions are nonnegotiable.
“Equal pay must be for equal work. If you bring expatriates here to work, once they’re doing the same work like a Guyanese, the Guyanese must be paid the same like them. We cannot have you paying five and 10 times more to an expatriate than a Guyanese…I have engaged those in the oil and gas industry and as I continue to engage the rest, the same point I will make to them,” Hamilton cautioned.
The Minister noted that officials have been visiting both public and private workplaces and organisations, to ensure that employers are in compliance with the labour laws and occupational safety regulations. From these visitations, employers are reminded that once their staffing unit exceeds 19 persons, the formation of a Health and Safety Committee is required.
“We have been doing visitations to both public and private sector entities, speaking to the issue of labour relations and occupational safety regulations. We have committed to help them create workers’ occupational health and safety committees, both public and private sector. The law says once you have more than 19 employees, you must have an occupational health and safety committee in your organisation.”
Hamilton said his Ministry has hit the ground running since the new PPP/C Administration assumed office in August and one of his main goals is to ensure workers’ rights are upheld. He said they are seeking to build three pillars, namely to build capacity and train workers; human development though housing and healthcare; and protection of the rights of workers.
During his engagement with the media, another situation was brought to light regarding Amalgamated Transport Workers Credit Union, where some $13.3 million cannot be accounted for. This is in breach of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, forcing the Ministry to take control of the Union.
The first sum is $8.4 million which was unaccounted for after an audit and another sum for $4.9 million.
The Labour Minister shared, “I am reporting that the Chief Co-op Officer is about to take possession and control under the law of that credit union. Reason is that, presently that credit union is under the suspicion for what we call under the AML-CTF Act, suspicious transactions. The Financial Intelligence Unit was written to about the specific issue, about this credit union. Two important issues must be recognised. There is an audit of the books of the union, and monies that they cannot account for to the tune of $8.4 million.”
It was revealed that one senior officer was caught as she attempted to cash two cheques by herself, amounting to $3.6 million.
“Secondly, during the audit and queries, they have in their possession, some $4.9 million that they cannot account for…We had an alarming situation also where one of the senior officers was attempting to cash two cheques to the tune of $3.6 million, I suspect payable to herself.”