Stricter monitoring of foreign enterprises needed – trade unions

It is time for the Department of Labour, and by extension, the Government, to investigate and remedy the conditions some employees are forced to endure when working at mining sites.

General Secretary of GTU Coretta McDonald

This was the call of General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Coretta McDonald, who said that the Government of Guyana must not allow foreign companies operating locally to disregard the rights of Guyanese workers.
“I am saying this has got to stop. And I think that the time is now when we will have to…put some pressure on our administration so that these things can change. Employers must respect the right to collective bargaining, they must respect the rights for association, and they must have respect for the union that is there to bargain for the workers.”
She stated that the low wages and unlawful dismissals of workers have rippling effects on families and more so on school-aged children who belong to those affected families. When such negativities occur they more often than not affect the attendance and/or completion of studies for those children, McDonald noted.
“I would want to call the Department of Labour to ask them to very quickly send their folks to see under which conditions they (miners) are working. Even though we have been working under these conditions, there is nobody there who is saying you know these workers work for long hours. These workers are working under conditions that are not proper,” the GTU Secretary said.

GAWU General Secretary Seepaul Narine

Meanwhile, President of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), Lincoln Lewis, explained that the administration was voted in office to protect the rights of all citizens and the rights of workers in the mining industry should not be sidelined.
Additionally, General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine posited that the recent actions of the Bauxite Company of Guyana (BCGI) to dismiss over 90 workers without any regard to laws and conventions in Guyana must not be overlooked by the administration.

GB&GWU President Lincoln Lewis

He pointed out that the company seems to be following a trend that other foreign enterprises in Guyana have set over the last few years.
“An almost similar approach was embraced by the Malaysian-owned Demerara Timbers Limited (DTL), the DTL in 2016 had moved to dismiss a number of workers after they took part in a protest exercise outside that company’s head office in Kingston, Georgetown…in 2017 there were certain breaches by the Canadian-owned company. The Union, at that time, had also expressed concern that workers were not being granted any pay rises…also concerns being expressed in the media regarding employees employed with El Dorado Offshore (EDO), another foreign enterprise involved in the oil sector, who could be fired were they to disclose their working conditions,” Narine added.
The General Secretary added that while GAWU is not averse to foreign investment, it has justifiable concerns regarding the practices and ploys embraced by some foreign enterprises operating locally and while the public announcements made by the administration on such issues are welcomed, it needs to do more than speak, it needs to act.