–as Labour Ministry rolled out agenda
AFTER being elected to office in August 2020, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government went about re-establishing the Ministry of Labour, which had been reduced to a mere department under the previous administration.
The year 2021 saw the ministry focusing on capacity building, human development and protecting workers’ rights, a mandate set out by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali.
Led by the Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, in 2021, the ministry was able to recover over $38 million on behalf of employees. This sum included wages owed to workers, annual leave payment, overtime, severance and payment in lieu of notice of termination.
Last year, the ministry received a total of 867 complaints, most of which were from the security and commercial sectors. Some 837 of those complaints were closed.
In order to ensure full adherence to the labour laws, the ministry’s labour department conducted close to 1,000 work place inspections countrywide.
Most of those inspections were led by Minister Hamilton, who called for both local and foreign companies to respect and uphold the country’s labour laws and regulations.
Additionally, 22 collective labour bargaining agreements were signed for 2021 while the ministry facilitated over 700 meetings with employers, all with the intention to settle the respective issues with their employees.
A total of 930 employers’ representatives were trained in labour laws and regulations, while seminars were held with security companies to educate them on the labour laws and regulations in light of the increase in the number of complaints from employees of those companies.
Creating a safe and healthy work environment, especially in the mining and construction sector, amid the pandemic, was a major focus of the Labour Ministry last year, as well.
To this end, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Department increased health and safety inspections at work places nationwide.
A series of safety-related training sessions were conducted, targeting the oil and gas industry. The staff also underwent training in keeping with international standards.
New labour offices were also established in Anna Regina, Region Two; Upper Corentyne, Region Six and Linden, Region 10. Labour officers were also recruited and placed in all 10 administrative regions.
The ministry, through the Board of Industrial Training (BIT), increased opportunities for technical and vocational education training countrywide.
With an increased budgetary allocation of $439.8 million, BIT was able to facilitate training for some 3,086 persons in 2021, as compared to 2,000 trained the previous year.
The ministry was also able to advance talks with regards to the increase in the national private sector minimum wage to $60,000 through the convening of a tripartite committee that included representatives of the private sector and trade unions. (DPI)