About 40 workers attached to the Guyana Rice Development Board Burma Research Station at Mahaicony on Tuesday picketed the office demanding better working conditions.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), which earlier this year started representing some of the workers, has intervened to get several of the workers’ concerns addressed.
Previously, the workers were represented by the Union of Allied and Agricultural Workers (UAAW).
GAWU New Amsterdam Supervisor Harvey Tambron on Tuesday said the workers have no proper place to take their meals and have to sit among the garbage and weed where chemicals are also exposed. He added that some workers’ pay is being reduced for reasons unknown to the Union.
The workers said on Tuesday that they are forced to use tractors and trailers with no seating accommodations.
The toilets for the workers are also non-functional.
“The Union had intervened and some of them were repaired but there are so many things that are left unresolved including the trailer, the shed that they use to take their meals. They need a proper place to change their clothes,” Tambron said while noting that there is no bond to store hazardous chemicals, thus putting the workers at further risk.
Some of the workers expressed disgust at the conditions they are forced to work under, explaining that they now have no confidence in the management of the research station.
According to Lovely Ram, a single mother of six, who has been working at the research station for the past six years, on many occasions workers have to work in muddy water and also sit there to take their meals.
Another female worker, Claudette Verbeke, explained that when they work in the rain they have nowhere to change and so must remain in those wet clothes.
Climax Williams, another worker, said that on May 13, he filed a form seeking to have a one-day compassionate leave after his father-in-law passed away, but this was denied.
Meanwhile, Sherwin Mingo, the workers’ representative said they can no longer tolerate the treatment by management.
He said he met with the management of the research station on several occasions to address workers’ concerns but nothing positive came of it.
“We need better management because nothing has been put in place their concerns,” Mingo said, pointing out that there are no first aid kits on the premises.
During the protest, some members of the management team drove past the workers who had blocked the gate holding placards in protest.