Compliance, Top Priority for Department of Labour -180% increase in prosecutions
The department of Labour, headed by Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection – keith Scott, is adamant that all laws relating to labour must be complied with – especially those relating to Industrial Relations and Occupational Safety and Health.
In 2017 there were 458 complaints of labour violations placed before the court, of which over three hundred of those cases were prosecuted and closed. That is representative of a 65% closure of cases for that year; a 180% increase in prosecutions when compared to 2015; over nineteen million dollars was recovered.
The department continues to receive reports of non-compliance and is currently engaging a region six security service provider (Integrated Security Services) for reports of paying salaries below the national minimum wage and in other cases – withholding salaries completely.
Minster Keith Scott, Chief Labour Officer – Mr. Charles Ogle and Assistant Chief Labour Officer – Mrs. Karen VanSluthman Corbin recently traveled to Region Six (6) – New Amsterdam , where they conducted a strategic inspection , accompanied by labour officers in that region . The team also held short meetings with regional officials.
The Minister had previously stated that he is prepared to go to any part of the country to collaborate within the interest of his Ministry or to correct injustices and represent the rights of workers.
While meeting with the Minister, the company indicated that after recently acquiring a contract that was lost by another security service; they are facing administrative difficulties that resulted in several complications. They were urged to fix those as soon as possible, while the Minister ordered immediate compliance with the minimum wage. They were also ordered to submit their time and wage sheets to the department for review.
Mr. Neville Nicholes , Senior Labour , Occupational Safety and Health Officer in charge of regions 5&6 said that the Labour Department has already began in-house training with senior supervisors of the security service , so that they would be au-fait with the regulations and what is required. This is in addition to several other training programs planed for both regions.
The Labour laws mediate the relationship between employers, workers, trade unions and the state. According to the Department of Labour, it is of immense importance that those laws are adhered to within the best interest of all parties involved.
During a meeting with employees of the security company, they complained of not being able to meet their living expenses, being unable to support their families and having to borrow money just to get by, some employees mentioned that based on varying amounts of money they would receive; they don’t know what their salaries are. They went on to say that the company should not be Integrated Security, but should be renamed “Integrated Science” for the technicalities involved in computing their salaries.
Ms. Vanessa Hope, who resides in the vicinity of Angoy’s Avenue – New Amsterdam ,said she was retained by the guard service after it acquired the security contract of her previous employer , she said in December the company paid her just over Sixteen Thousand Dollars ($16,000) while she was given Twenty-five thousand dollars ( $25,000) for January. She said based on her calculation of the hours she worked, her salary should be fifty thousand four hundred dollars ($50,400).
During short meetings with regional officials: Regional Executive Officer – Ms. Kim Williams Stevens, Regional Chairman – Mr. David Armogan and Mayor – Ms. Winifred Haywood. They were given an appraisal of the reason for the visit by the delegation; the officials signaled their support for the initiative and conveyed that in addition to standard operations and routine visits conducted by the Department of Labour in Berbice, the visit was necessary and much appreciated.
The team also conducted inspections across several New Amsterdam businesses, where several infractions were found. Those infractions include: bad lighting, deplorable washroom facilities, the absence first aid kits, fire extinguishers, time books and cases of employees not receiving pay slips.
While in Berbice the Minister took the opportunity to meet with the staff there, he urged them to continue their hard work, while stating that for no cause should they compromise their integrity and professionalism.
The Ministry of Social Protection continues to contribute to the economic and social development of Guyana by executing appropriate policies and programmes that will contribute to maintaining a stable industrial relations climate; enhancing the safety and health of workers by ensuring improved working conditions at worksites and maintaining an atmosphere of mutual trust and social justice between management and labour.