Authorities addressing reports of child labour at coconut estates

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Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton says his Ministry is reviewing reports of child labour occurring at two coconut estates in Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two).

The Minister said he observed the incidents during a visit to the estates at the weekend, and the Region’s Labour Officer was engaged to address the matter.  The youngsters alleged that they had been working without safety gear and are forced to work overtime without compensation.

“The matter, at the level of the Ministry, we are going to pay attention to because we have certain international obligations to ensure that the issue of child labour is arrested in Guyana, so that is what we are going to continue to do.

“They should not be working there at all.  Whilst a 16-year-old is allowed to work, they should not be working in any environment, especially a factory environment. It is a dangerous environment and in the case of these young men, they were not even 16-years-old,” he said.

As such, the Region’s Labour and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) officers would be visiting both companies and the young workers for further evaluation.

Minister Hamilton said the Government’s policy on child labour is firm, and while people may claim ignorance of the law, they must comply.

“I am allowing ignorance of people, even though they might not be ignorant. And, I have said publicly that as I see it, that I will allow up to the third quarter of the year for persons to address this and after this period, I will deal with those matters utilising the law.”

This Ministry is observing Occupational Safety and Health Month under the theme, “Investing in OSH systems, capitalising on safety and healthy working environment in times of crisis.” As such, a comprehensive programme focusing on safety and health, including COVID-19 precautions in the workplace has been launched.