The Ministry of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Department, has caught the attention of the US Department of State in its latest human rights report, over the Ministry’s inability to enforce applicable laws in workplaces that have been deemed unsafe.
In the 2022 human rights country report on Guyana, the US State Department noted that while some work places were deemed not suitable for work, the laws to protect workers from hazards were not enforced although unsafe conditions were identified by safety inspectors.
“Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards are not appropriate for the main industries, and government did not effectively enforce OSH laws. The law provides that some categories of workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations. OSH inspectors actively identified unsafe conditions and recommended procedures for addressing workplace hazards,” the US Statement Department said.
Labour Minister, Joe Hamilton in his budget presentation this year pointed out that there was an increase in workplace accidents last year, although workplace deaths have decreased.
The report also stated that there were violations of wage, hour or overtime laws, especially in the mining, logging and oil and gas sectors and that the government did not effectively enforce applicable laws to give redress to those affected while administrative and judicial proceedings regarding violations were often subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
In addition, the report noted that some public-sector employee unions continued to allege discrimination by the government, asserting the government violated worker rights and did not effectively enforce the law.
“The unions were concerned that employers used hiring practices such as contract labor and temporary labor to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. For 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 State Department highlighted.
The report further noted complaints by the Guyana Public Service Union of instances of political interference in the union. It also mentioned the union’s repeated efforts to get the government to participate in collective bargaining.
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