[www.inewsguyana.com] – The atrocious conditions under which workers were forced to toil were exposed when Junior Minister of Social Protection Simona Broomes, conducted an onsite visit of the Bosai bauxite mining operations in Linden, Region Ten recently.
Accompanied by a team of Labour Occupational Health and Safety Officials, the Minister was appalled at the conditions under which workers were required to execute their duties.
Sparsely furnished lunchroom with no central or functioning air condition unit, and one adjacent to an exposed sewage pipe, lacking proper tunnels with live electricity, with water on the floor, inadequate safety equipment such as basic face masks instead of industrially approved safety masks with proper filters and respirators were some of the harsh conditions that the Minister was there to bear witness to.
The workers are forced to toil under at the Chinese owned factory plant. Over at the East Montgomery mines, workers complained of being forced to cramp themselves into one bus for transportation into the worksite. According to the workers, the company had two big businesses that transported the workers to the mine and the docks, but after one became inoperable, no moves were made to get a second.
The mine workers complained of working under unsafe conditions, such as an open pit, which many felt was too steep and in some parts more dangerous than the one that saw the eight miners losing their lives recently at an interior location. Working the pit in the night was also made more difficult by the fact that workers had to do so with inadequate lighting.
The Minister was also apprised of what workers said were the victimisation and verbal abuse they suffer, when they complained about such issues as “no raise of pay, being evaluated and being told there is no money to pay, being denied pay when sick, despite falling sick on the job and being checked by the onsite medic and taken to the hospital, by that official.”
One worker told the Minister of an incident where he complained to the Mines Manager about the AC in the lunchroom not working, to which the Manager replied “first place I come and see two AC in one room, how much of you have two ACs in your house…”As one worker puts it, “All these people concern with is this bauxite, and getting it out, and we get the crumbs from their table.”
The workers at the mine work under these conditions, 12 hours per day, for a basic salary of US$100 per week.
“This is the first time in five years we have seen anyone; we haven’t got no visit from no minister, no union,” one of the mine workers told the Minister.
According to Minister Broomes, the visit exposed many serious lapses and lack of oversight by the previous administration. She noted that the previous government had placed restrictions on labour inspections across the country.
She noted that under the Minister of Protection, there will be a difference. “We will be traversing to the length and breadth of Guyana. We will be looking at health and safety practices for workers in Guyana, we will also be looking at child labour, in the work places, so you will see more of labour,” she warned.
She added that “protocol will be established with security at the gates of these, so that in future, when labour shows up, they will have immediate access to the company.”
The Minister was referring to the fact that when the team arrived at the Bosai factory, it was forced to wait at least 10 minutes for clearance to enter the plant.
“They should all know that health and safety would not always give notice, to say to companies, oh we are coming in, we will like to come in impromptu to witness for ourselves what is taking place on the ground,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the working conditions of the Bosai workers, Minister Broomes, told the workers that she was saddened at what they had to endure to take care of their families.
“The previous government has neglected the workers. Workers’ health and safety were never being considered. This government is all about change and we will definitely ensure that we get a change to this,” she said.
She pointed out to the workers, the ministry was renamed Social Protection for a reason, and their “social protection is here. [Extracted and modified from GINA]