– Regional Chairman wants managers blocked from flying out
Toucan Connections Incorporated, the only Call Centre in the Mining town, violated labour laws when it closed operations recently and sent home some 90 people without prior notice.
This has forced the government to intervene to ensure that the now unemployed persons will be given their full benefits.
Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Simona Broomes, who holds oversight responsibility for the Labour Department, led a team to the Mining town yesterday, to meet with officials and staff of the now closed Call Centre, a government statement said.
During the engagement with the manager, supervisor, and 86 staff members at the centre, the Minister explained that she was informed of the issue by Regional Chairman, Rennis Morian, who was also present at the session.
Staffers claimed that management of the centre had advised them that the benefits due to them would be paid by the government.
This notion was quickly shot down by Minister Broomes. She told the now unemployed persons that this was not true.
“If it was told to you that it is the responsibility of Government to pay your severance, I would like to say to you, this is not true. It is the responsibility of the person who employed you to do so,” Broomes told the now unemployed persons.
Broomes insisted that management of the call centre violated the labour laws in Guyana, as these mandate that businesses upon their closure or intentions to do so, must first inform their employees and then the relevant government or State agencies.
“Supervisor of Toucan Connections, Shontel Brooks, advised the Minister that the company misinterpreted the laws, since she thought that the severance package was the responsibility of the government, but later apologized to the staff. Minister Broomes viewed this as “misleading the employees”. She said that ignorance of the law is no excuse,” the Government release said.
“How can you be here and establish a building and say to me that you didn’t know the law? You are misleading workers to say that it is Government’s responsibility to pay severance,” Minister Brooms chided.
Broomes disclosed that had it not been for the intervention of the Regional Chairman, staffers would have staged a protest to blame the Government for their status of being unemployed and their owed benefits.
In addition, investigations done by the Ministry’s team discovered that NIS contributions were not remitted to the scheme, and from all indications, documents are managed in St. Kitts. However, the business still collected taxes and NIS contributions from their salaries.
Minister Broomes stated, “The reason I had sent for inspections to be conducted is that I had received complaints from workers that they were being abused and they are made to work in terrible conditions.”
Labour, Occupational and Health Officer, Dawn Gardener, pointed out that she witnessed the abuse while conducting her investigations at the centre.
Broomes promised to ensure that all the necessary contributions will be paid up to date and indicated intentions to take the company to court for breaches of the labour laws.
According to the labour laws, employees should be consulted, “as early as possible but no later than one month from the date of existence…with recognized trade unions, or if none exists, the employees or the employees’ representatives and the Chief Labour Officer, on the possible measures that could be taken to avert or mitigate the adverse effects of such circumstances, in relation to employment generally and employees concerned.”
The laws also state that a guilty employer can be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $20,000 and imprisonment of three months.
One of the now unemployed persons, Adele Bakker, explained to Minister Broomes that the company is robbing them of their monies, pointing out that whenever an employee logs out of the system, whether it be to visit the washroom or to visit the supervisor upon request, money is being deducted from their salaries.
The Regional Chairman signaled his intentions to have the building secured as it belongs to the state. He appealed to the minister to launch an overall investigation into the operations of the centre, as he was advised that valuable assets have already been removed from the building.
He also wants the foreign managers to be blocked from leaving, until the workers are paid all their benefits and all arrangements are completed.
Region Ten’s Member of Parliament, Valerie Patterson, urged the Minister to ensure that the agreements with foreign companies, wanting to invest in Guyana, be done in accordance with the prescribed rules, regulations and laws of the country.
Owner and Managing Director of the company, Gordon Walker, was not present during the meeting.
The closure of the call centre would be a hard blow for Linden which has been complaining about the scarcity of jobs.
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