[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) is protesting reports that the Guyana Prison Service has entered into a contract with the Ministry of Local Government to use prisoners on its “Clean-Up My Country” Programme.
According to the GTUC, this issue must be guided by internationally accepted principles which Guyana has embraced through the adoption of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Forced Labour Convention No. 29.
“Article 2 of said convention expressly states at, “1. For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” It goes on to counsel at 2. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this Convention, the term forced or compulsory labour shall not include– c) any work or service exacted from any person as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law, provided that the said work or service is carried out under the supervision and control of a public authority and that the said person is not hired to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies or associations.”
“There is a relationship between the M&CC and two trade unions, the Guyana Labour Union and the Guyana Local Government Officers Union. The contracting out of any aspect of M&CC’s operations has to be discussed and agreed upon by the parties, guided by international conventions, local laws and Guyana Decent Work Agenda,” GTUC said in a statement.
To this end, the Body noted that the work of the cemetery cannot be re-assigned to prisoners because this act conflicts with ILO Convention to which Guyana is a signatory.
“This revelation is also occurring at a time when there is high unemployment at the national level and the city council is being starved of funding to execute its duties. The non-payment by the State of its rates and taxes, and appropriate subventions hinders the city in discharging its responsibilities to the community,” the statement added.
GTUC says too that the government must no longer remain unmindful that Guyana continues to attract international condemnation for the violation of Convention 29 in activities such as Child Labour and human trafficking and cannot afford to have another protected category violated.
The GTUC therefore urges the Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker, Shadow Minister of Local Government Ronald Bulkan, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Winston Felix, and most of all Shadow Minister of Labour Basil Williams and Minister of Labour Nanda Gopaul to ensure Guyana does not exploit prison labour, which would be detrimental to the nation’s reputation, international trade relations and prisoners’ rights.