Statement from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)
The GAWU recognised from a Ministry of Labour press statement of July 07, 2021, Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton, and other officials of the Ministry, once again, visited Vaitarna Private Holdings Inc in Region #7. That visit appeared to be one of several the Minister and his team conducted in the Region #7 area. Previously, we recalled the Minister and the Ministry visiting Vaitarna. At that time, our Union recognizing the Minister’s proactiveness in addressing the concerns of the employees of that company wrote Minister Hamilton seeking that the Union together with him and the Ministry conduct a similar visit to Demerara Timbers Limited (DTL) Mabura Hill location. In our correspondence to the Minister, we highlighted that the workers have expressed serious concerns with the situation at the company’s Mabura location.
Following our correspondence, the Ministry responded to indicate that a visit would be arranged, and we would hear from them. We continued to follow-up and have been told that the visit was still to be arranged. On one occasion, we were surprisingly told the Ministry did not have any vehicles available. We found that perplexing recognizing that the Minister had visited several interior locations since taking up office. It appears, for one reason or the other, there is some reluctance to visit the DTL location. We sincerely hope this is not the case.
The GAWU, as the bargaining agent, has been representing the workers concerns to the Company which undertook to addressing them. But the workers continued to highlight that the situation has hardly improved. Over the last few years, the DTL has adopted an arm’s length approach to the GAWU and the efforts of both the Union and the Ministry to correct that situation have so far been unsuccessful. Our Union has called on the Ministry to take sterner actions in keeping with the Laws of Guyana. We have told the Ministry that it is obligated to ensuring that workers rights are protected more so considering that the foreign-owned DTL benefits from our nation’s patrimony.
Our Union nonetheless is hopeful that our public appeal can stir the Ministry of Labour to act. We applaud the efforts of the Ministry in protecting the rights of all workers. This is our objective as well and we believe our collaborative efforts could meaningfully address the situation plaguing the DTL workers.