Corriverton municipal workers strike for better working conditions


Workers at the Corriverton municipality, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), are on strike. The workers are calling for better working conditions and improved wages and salaries.

Currently, the workers claimed, they are being paid below the national minimum wage.

One of the workers, Francine Charles, on Tuesday, said that they have been earning less since the pandemic hit Guyana in March of this year. She said they are now not being paid for overtime work.

The Market Clerk said she is currently being paid $9301 weekly which represents less than half of what she previously earned.

“It has affected me tremendously because since COVID-19 everything has increased – bills increase… When you go to the supermarket the price for everything is increased and now it is too much to deal with it with just $9000 to cover it,” Charles said.

Meanwhile, Renita Rivet from the municipal’s finance department explained that the Local Government and Regional Development Ministry had issued a circular indicating how they should be paid but the municipality has not been following the orders.

The workers also vented concerns over what they say are poor working conditions.
They said they were threatened by officials from the municipality when they tried to oppose the treatment being meted out to them.

“That is why we are striking so that hopefully we will be able to resolve these issues,” Rivet said.

Meanwhile, Ameren Hakeem of the constabulary department explained that are also owed retroactive increases from 2019, and the Council has failed on its promises to have them paid. “Anytime we approach them they are always telling us that there is no money.”
His colleague James Charles said they are owed for two years.

“We just want the money that the Council owes us. They are threatening us because we are taking strike action. We should not be threatened because we are paying union dues.”

General Secretary of the Guyana Labour Union Carvil Duncan alleged the town’s Mayor, Winston Roberts, has abused workers and used foul language toward them at meetings.

“I wrote the Mayor in my capacity as the General Secretary asking for a meeting to discuss the workers’ issues,” Duncan said.

The letter also stated that industrial action would be taken if the meeting was not held.
“Because of no response from the Mayor, we have come to the conclusion that he is saying to us, ‘strike if all you want to strike’.”

Duncan explained that as a result of the strike, new issues have emerged.

“We did not know that people were working at the Council for three years and receiving $9300 weekly which is less than $40,000 a month. The minimum wage as agreed upon is in excess of $45,000. So they are being paid below the minimum and coupled with that they are being exploited. The Mayor tells them that he is the boss and whatever he says goes. However, the Act does not give the Mayor that power. Based on the Act, the power lies with the Town Clerk,” Duncan said.

Meanwhile, in a correspondence to the Corriverton municipality, the Local Government Commission had suggested that since the Town Clerk was proceeding on annual leave, the Treasurer should act in the capacity of Town Clerk.

“However, he did not follow the instructions of the Local Government Commission and he brought someone from out of the municipality to act as Town Clerk,” Duncan, who is also the President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said.

He noted that the person who is now acting as Town Clerk did not pass through the Local Government Commission for temporary employment.

Meanwhile, the acting Town Clerk told this publication that the Council, which met on Tuesday, has put systems in place since all of the market staff including the constabulary department are on strike.

Efforts to contact Mayor Roberts were futile. (Andrew Carmichael)