Latest update June 2nd, 2023 12:49 AM
Mar 23, 2023 News
…points out that local labour laws being ignored by Govt.
Kaieteur News – The most recent US State Department report on Human Rights and other abuses in Guyana, has flagged the disparity in salaries being paid to Guyanese working in the Oil and Gas industry as against expatriate workers, such as Trinidadian nationals.
The pay disparity has been raised by numerous domestic unions that have over time been highlighting the fact that expatriate workers are very many times paid several times higher that their domestic counterparts for the same tasks.
According to the Report documenting instances recorded last year, the US Government noted that local trade union bodies were concerned that employers used hiring practices such as contract labor and temporary labor to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights.
To this end, the Report cites as example, “the National Mines Workers Union of Guyana advocated on behalf of oil and gas workers to raise complaints with the Ministry of Labor that citizens received less favorable contracts and lower pay than Trinidadian nationals.
The Guyana Agricultural and Commercial Workers Union, Oil and Gas Committee has also, in recent times been vociferous in seeking to champion the causes for local workers in the oil and gas sector.
Additionally, the US Report stated, “The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Penalties for violation of labor laws are small fines that the government frequently did not impose.” The GAWU outfit, in a recent report in this publication for the period under review had expressed their concern over the current approach to petroleum workers, who in many instances, have pointed out cases of mistreatment and non -compliance with labour laws by their employers. GAWU’s General Secretary, Aslim Singh in that report had contended that “the arm’s length approach to employment where workers work through contractors, is contributing to the situation where the real employer can disavow the contracted employee.” Several companies serve as sub-contractors within the sector, all providing auxiliary services that enables the development of the industry. Sub-contractors may also seek sub- contractors to provide them with a particular service, such as labour.
It has been recognized however that while a contractor may be providing the labour, that hiring company may not be directly responsible for the worker who actually takes his orders from where they work. In this way, the worker is hired by one company, but is fired or receives directions from another company. Recent complaints by workers attached to a local joint venture had said that they were placed on one-year contracts and made to pay their own taxes and insurance despite being out of a job every few months due to the availability of work which comes based on available projects.
In the US Report on Guyana, noted also that during the course of the year the Guyana Public Service Union reported instances of political interference in the union and government attempts to pressure some members to leave the union. “In July, the union filed suit against the government, the country’s largest employer, for failing to participate in required collective bargaining on public-servant wages, salaries, and allowances despite repeated requests since 2020.” It was outlined too that while Guyana’s statutes, provides for a national minimum wage, there is a different minimum wage rate for the public sector and private sector. “Minimum wage rates are set through Minimum Wages Orders made under the Labor Act and Wages Council Act. In sectors not covered by the act, wages maybe agreed upon by individual or collective agreement.”
It was noted that minimum wages for regular working hours of all full-time, private-sector employees are set nationally for hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly workers and that in addition to, the national minimum wage, the law prohibits compulsory overtime, and overtime work must be paid according to rates set in the law or according to any collective bargaining
agreement in force where workers are unionised. According to the US State Department however, there were alleged violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws were common in the mining, oil and gas, and logging sectors.
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