A new report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on core labour standards in Guyana, published to coincide with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) review of its trade policies, has found that trade union rights are violated and that the government does not effectively enforce its laws.
According to the report, freedom of association and the rights to organise, to bargain collectively and to strike are recognised in law but not in practice.
Collective agreements are breached in the public sector, and bargaining is undermined by directives that the government issues in replacement of negotiations. Laws to stop anti-union discrimination are not applied, and private companies dismiss strikers without any consequences, the report stated.
The report finds that many services that are not truly “essential” are defined that way simply in order to enable the Minister of Labour to have the power to order compulsory arbitration procedures and impose heavy penalties on any worker daring to go on strike.
Furthermore, it was noted, Guyana must deal with inequality and discrimination, which are prevalent in the country.
Female unemployment is more than double that of males, job vacancy notices routinely specify the sex of the candidate and work is largely divided across gender lines. Legislation outlawing discrimination at the workplace is also inadequate. Moreover, programmes to address discrimination against Persons living with HIV/AIDS as well as disadvantaged and disabled persons are also insufficient.
Among the report’s findings are that the government’s efforts to cope with child labour and enforce compulsory education are inadequate, given that the problem concerns at least one-fifth of Guyanese children.
Many children are engaged in hazardous work, and child prostitution is one of Guyana’s worst forms of child labour. The law on child labour could protect children, but it is not enforced effectively, according to the report.
In the same way, Government agencies and police authorities are not capable of enforcing the laws against forced labour and trafficking. Police are not trained to deal with these issues, and criminal cases are usually dismissed by prosecutors who lack understanding of the appropriate application of such legislation.
The report concludes that it is of paramount importance that the government build-up its law enforcement and judicial capacity in order to monitor and enforce the application of core labour standards.
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