By Leonard Gildarie
After almost nine years of grueling work at Kaieteur News, I have managed to finally take a much-needed vacation with the family.
We all need a break from the everyday routine. As a matter of fact, many workplaces around the world in developed countries and some others have been studying ways to increase productivity and create a happy environment.
It is a fact that long hours for workers with little playtime does not necessarily translate to more productivity. Human resources management has become an evolving art for corporations.
Unfortunately, in the media business, long and irregular hours is not something that is unusual.
I saw a recent article which spoke of companies in Sweden, a European country, experimenting with six-hour workdays. Employees are limited from cell phones usage and the amount of breaks.
A number of employers, especially in the care-giving business, have started to cut hours from eight to six hours, to allow their workers to spend more time at home.
Of course, in Sweden, there are objections from some quarters that the experiment would actually lead to less production, despite workers being happy at the less hours.
It remains to be seen how successful the experiment will be.
There is no question that our labour authority is in drastic need of overhaul if there is an intention to take it to new standards. It has over the years been accused of turning a blind eye to the situation that prevails in the country.
We have received many allegations of bribes being paid to labour inspectors and others.
From the gold bush, to the bauxite industry to Regent Street and the many companies that are now involved in the security business, the complaints have been many, leaving me to wonder what exactly the department does.
One can recall too, clearly the unresolved issue at Rusal, a bauxite company that has operations in Aroaima and Kwakwani, Region 10, where over 50 workers were fired for daring to take protest actions over the working situation.
It has been almost seven years now, and a new Government is in place, but I am unaware that matter has been brought to closure.
We read a few months ago of visits to Regent Street and surprise inspections to workplaces in the hinterland.
But the complaints of labour infractions continue to pour in.
Every so often, workers from security firms would come into the newspaper and complain about being suddenly sent home or consistently paid late.
Still, we hear of many stories of employers deducting taxes and NIS, and failing to remit these to the respective bodies.
These are issues that should be highly criminal.
It is pointless to have laws in place and no implementation.
As Guyana moves to improve its financial health, there will have to be corresponding applications to also improve the working conditions of its people, hence positively affecting the quality of life.
How often do we see construction workers on top of buildings with little or no safety equipment or gear?
I walk the streets of New York and marvel at the strict adherence to labour and other regulations. There are literally hundreds of constructions ongoing in the city and main shopping areas like Jamaica, Queens.
There are nets to catch debris, a must for construction sites. There are warning notices. There is little evidence that construction is ongoing unless you happen to see the barricades.
The pavements are not blocked off. Rather, a passageway is created under to allow for foot traffic.
I was in Hollis, Jamaica at a social and the homeowner was worried about where to park his high-end vehicles. There are of course the side streets and enough space in his yard but New York is not like Guyana. You cannot just build a shed. There are strict rules how and where you can build.
He will have to throw a temporary tent to cater for the summer heat and then worry about the coming winter. Such is life in the great US…one extreme to another.
In every community, land is set aside for parks and trees. There roads have special lanes for buses and other service vehicles.
It is all about proper planning and long term thinking.
Our managers have to consistently think about what is next…how do we improve on what we have?
Yes, there will be arguments that there are not enough resources. There will never be enough. We have to make do and do the best we can.
I went to Jamaica, Queens to visit a relative and met a man in a wheelchair. He was sitting in front of an apartment building. A Guyanese, he has been here for almost three decades.
He has a full-time care giver paid for by the Government. It is all part of the programmes of the Government. Life is not easy for persons living in the US. Without insurance and good credit, and a legal status, it will be tough.
Paying taxes and finding good insurance and a good pension plan to contribute to remain a major worry for many immigrants.
The pensioner loves Guyana. He is related to a top Government official, even carrying his name.
But he will not likely come back to Guyana to die. The benefits in the US, including medication, and hospital visits, will all compel him to stay in his little apartment.
There are hundreds of similar cases in the New York area.
We have our work cut out in Guyana. Things will not change overnight.
But start we must, and what better place than in the labour department?
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