Jul 11, 2009 News
… Laws to stop anti-union discrimination are not applied – Report
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has produced a report in which it castigates the Jagdeo Administration for the violation of trade union rights.
Yesterday, Vice Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform, Basil Williams, said that among the criticisms leveled at the Administration is its refusal to recognise collective agreements. “Laws to put an end to anti-union discrimination are not applied and private companies can dismiss workers without any consequences.”
Williams noted that the report recognised that many services, labeled as ‘essential’, are not really ‘essential’ and have only been so defined, by the Jagdeo Administration, to enable the Minister of Labour to have the power to order compulsory arbitration and impose heavy fines on workers for going on strike.
The Jagdeo Administration, he noted, is particularly taken to task over the question of child labour, which, according to the report, affects one fifth of the child population.
“This is a chilling statistic. Many children are engaged in hazardous work and child prostitution is one of Guyana’s worst forms of child labour.”
The PNCR has, over the years, been very critical of the Jagdeo Administration for dividing the labour movement, arbitrarily imposing wage settlements, undermining the collective bargaining process and paying scant attention to the poverty of Guyanese workers.
“The Party hopes that, with the publication of this report, the Jagdeo Administration would reform its attitude towards the labour situation in Guyana and adopt the required remedial action.
“A knee jerk reaction, in the form of a denial, would neither help the workers nor improve the labour situation.”
Meanwhile, yesterday the International Trade Union Confederation stated that the report on core labour standards in Guyana, published to coincide with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) review of its trade policies, has found that trade union rights are violated and that the government does not effectively enforce its laws.
Freedom of association and the rights to organise, to bargain collectively and to strike are recognised in law but not in practice, the organisation stated.
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 ITUC stated.
Furthermore, Guyana must deal with ‘inequality and discrimination’, which are prevalent in the country.
It stated that 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, who live with HIV as well as disadvantaged and disabled persons, are also insufficient, it stated.
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.
In a release, the organisation noted that the law on child labour could protect children, but it is not enforced effectively.
It noted that the 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 states 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.
The ITUC represents 170 million workers in 312 affiliated national organisations from 157 countries.
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