Not enough inspectors to enforce labour law – State Dept report

Guyana has labour laws, but enforcing them is another matter entirely. One of the State Department’s findings in its 2019 report on human rights in Guyana is that the Labour Department does not have enough inspectors to enforce the law.
The report notes that while the responsibility for enforcing the law lies with the Social Protection Ministry, the Ministry is hampered not only by a lack of inspectors but also insufficient penalties for violations.
Labour inspections carried out during the year targeted all sectors, including agriculture, mining, and construction, the report stated, adding that the Ministry follow-up of labour inspection findings varied, and compliance among employers was also inconsistent. Enforcement of minimum wage legislation was not effective, it added.
According to the State Department, local trade unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) also reported that the Social Protection Ministry lacked sufficient resources to enforce occupational safety and health laws adequately.
“The Government reported 189 workplace accidents, of which 102 were investigated. There were 18 fatal workplace accidents reported as of October,” the report explained.
When it comes to minimum wage, a finding of the State Department was that enforcement of the minimum wage legislation was not as robust as it should have been. The report acknowledged the various provisions in the law for minimum wage earners.
According to the Department’s report, other provisions are for a normal workweek of 40 hours, distributed over no more than five days per week. The law, it noted, also prohibits compulsory overtime.
It was only in November 2019 that various unions had expressed concern about the extent to which the Department of Labour, headed by Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle, was understaffed.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) had been quoted in the press expressing concern over the situation. In their statements on the issue, FITUG had said that a number of qualified staff had left the Department over the years for various reasons.