Home Letters Pushing lower-waged foreigners to replace Guyanese workers
As Guyanese proudly prepared for Emancipation Day 2019, the caretaker Finance Minister heartlessly warned workers that they will be replaced by foreigners willing to work for less. Bewildered, the Guyanese people wondered where the caretaker President is, where the caretaker Prime Minister is, where are the political parties which swear they exist because of the working class. It surely cannot be only Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP who must rebuke Jordan.
This week, just before Emancipation Day, the caretaker Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, who never admitted he is a dual citizen, as has been alleged, stated, unapologetically, that he prefers foreign workers who would work for less pay than Guyanese workers. His statement is as outrageous as it is unequivocally reckless. It is utterly despicable and disgraceful. In fact, under normal circumstances, by itself, it is reason enough for a Government Minister to immediately resign or be fired. Except, this Minister was already fired on December 21, 2018, and he is presently squatting in his position.
While his statement is shocking, sadly, few Guyanese are shocked, expecting nothing but recklessness from the APNU/AFC and their Ministers. But the dismay is real and nothing can diminish how repugnant Jordan’s posture is. The dismay is compounded and there is genuine shock that the trade unions are still silent. Where is Lincoln Lewis of the Guyana Trades Union Congress? Cat cut his tongue?
For a Government to endorse foreigners coming and taking jobs from Guyanese, on the basis that their wages are lower, is disgraceful and unforgivable. The time has long past for the leadership of the APNU/AFC to reject the statement from Jordan. It is now almost a week, total silence. David Granger as the caretaker President and the Leader of the PNC is silent. Moses Nagamootoo, the caretaker Prime Minister, who still has nothing to do, who often boasts he is the champion of the working class, is totally silent. His AFC colleagues are in “la la land”, not a word of rebuke. The WPA, which has disowned Walter Rodney and which has become totally subsumed as a regular PNC group, is busy ensuring they remain in the warm embrace of the PNC, cannot even be bothered.
When the Private Sector in Guyana decides to hire foreigners because they can pay them less than Guyanese workers, they have legitimacy since the Government endorses this shameless practice. In fact, the Private Sector has already done so. Many security guards today in Guyana are foreigners. More shameful and totally unacceptable, many of the foreign security guards are employed at Government facilities. These foreigners are not only working as security guards, but they also work in the stores and restaurants and other service entities. They work in the mines and in the forestry sector.
What makes this practice unholy and repugnant is that it is happening amidst high unemployment. More than 30,000 people have lost their jobs through closure of businesses, including the closure of four sugar estates, and through the slowing down of the economy which has forced certain businesses to reduce staffing. In addition to lost jobs, the Government has failed to create employment. Now unemployment among the Guyanese workers is skyrocketing because available jobs are being taken by foreigners, just because they can be paid less, and the Government, if we are to accept Jordan’s pronouncement, is jumping for joy.
It is the height of irresponsibility and Jordan and the APNU/AFC must not escape the people’s wrath. It is behaviour and attitude like this which caused the APNU/AFC to lose the no-confidence vote in Parliament on December 21, 2018. That was not an accident, no fluke, it was the reflection of the loss of confidence among the majority of the Guyanese people. David Granger and the APNU/AFC know this. It is the reason they are so morbidly afraid of the election which was due on March 21 and which is again due on September 18. They will do everything within their deceitful best to avoid the elections. What is most egregious is they still insist on their reckless behaviour, hoping to buy votes by handouts and hoping to use some of the foreign workers to vote for them, illegally of course.
While this practice began with jobs like sales persons, security guards, restaurant workers, mining and forestry workers, home workers, in the farms, etc, it is only a matter of time before these workers flood the country competing for other jobs, such as teachers, nurses, in the oil and gas industry etc. This must give us pause because we must now develop a cohesive policy to guide the influx of people from other countries into Guyana. It is not that Guyana cannot accommodate others. Guyana can benefit from an increase in population. But clear policies must guide the influx. When the only rationale is it is better to pay foreigners cheaper, it is a clueless way forward, it is reckless, it is even criminal.
Guyanese workers are still the lowest-paid workers in Caricom, outside of Haiti. Now we have a Government which promotes as sound economic sense for foreigners to compete with Guyanese workers by offering their services cheaper. What is unforgiveable is that the APNU/AFC took the reins of Government on the backs of Guyanese workers who they promised dramatic wage and salary increases and significant improvement in other benefits. Guyanese sugar workers, after four years, have received not a cent in wage increases and they have lost significant associated benefits. The public servants are no better off and, after four years, they are still told their increases are coming. Weeks after the APNU/AFC became the Government, they increased their own salaries and benefits between 50 and more than 100 per cent. At the time, they told public servants the Cabinet had to take their own increases first because it will make them more competent and less corrupt and the public servants must be patient and await their turn. Now, workers are told foreigners will take their jobs for less pay.
They are utterly shameless in telling the Guyanese workers their jobs are in jeopardy because foreigners are welcomed to come take those jobs if they are willing to work for less. It is high time we punish the APNU/AFC by voting them out. But these shameful people have decided they will not permit any election to fire them.
Dr Leslie Ramsammy