Legal committee addressing breaches of labour laws

Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton recently announced the formation of a labour committee aimed at addressing breaches of the labour laws.

The committee comprises officials of the Ministry of Labour, as well as legal advisors within the Attorney General’s Chambers.

During an interview Friday, Minister Hamilton disclosed that the committee will be addressing several issues, including penalties for employers who violate laws that protect workers in Guyana.

“They are working on putting the recommendations we have into legal language… and to advise what can, and cannot work. After that is finished, we will have a consultation with the public; primarily the private sector and representatives of the labour union. What I can tell you is that included in the recommendations are substantial fines for breaches of labour and Occupational Safety and Health laws,” he said.

Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton at a recent event

In the instance where an employer fails to comply with the instructions issued by a court, he/she may be found in contempt of the court and subjected to a custodial penalty.

The labour law breaches addressed so far have spanned a range of issues, including employers refusing to pay overtime, refusal to pay severance, issues surrounding vacation leave for employees and contracts misaligned with the law, among others.

In some cases, employees worked in unsafe conditions because employers failed to follow Occupational Safety and Health regulations as outlined in the laws of Guyana.

The minister stated that it is important that people report these issues so that they could be resolved ethically.

“That is the only way that we can utilise the evidence and a statement to take the [employer] to court. Because when we go to court we have to rely on witnesses, or a witness. But if we don’t have a report, the court will say we are just wasting our time, because there is no evidence against this party, so I continue to say to people; plead with people: you have a labour grievance, you come and make a report to the ministry,” he implored.

He said the committee is discussing alterations to existing policies, as well as the creation of entirely new policies to protect workers’ rights in Guyana.

“We are still hoping that in the new year—early in the new year, the legislation can be taken to the National Assembly to be enacted. In some instances, we have new legislation that we recommend, and in otherinstances, there are amendments to legislation that are already on the books,” he explained.

Private sector stakeholders at the recent workshop on labour migration

The minister has also been in discussion with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to discuss the issue of international policies as compared to those in Guyana as it relates to migrant labour.

Recently, the IOM and Ministry of Labour hosted a workshop to address issues regarding the ethical recruitment of migrant labour. These initiatives are part of a larger framework to provide equal opportunities and upward mobility for all persons living in Guyana. The legal committee was an initiative is a collaboration of the ministries of Labour and Legal Affairs and continues to address legal matters surrounding the fair treatment of workers in Guyana.