The Bai Shan Lin disclosure

Last weekend’s announcement by the Chinese company Bai Shan Lin that it is seeking to recruit 700 workers with various types of skills to work in areas associated with its multi-sectoral investment in Guyana got the attention of most, if not all, of the media houses – and with good reason. The fact that the Bureau of Statistics appears to classify the national unemployment figures as a state secret notwithstanding, we know enough about unemployment levels in Guyana to understand the significance of an advertisement that announces that seven hundred jobs are up for grabs.

Perhaps the first thing that should be said about the Bai Shan Lin investment is that it is interesting that it is concerned, in large measure, with adding value to locally harvested timber. Of course, promises of that nature have been made and broken in the past and log exporters have made a killing from what in essence have been exercises in deceit. We have gone over, time and again, the old story of the economy not benefiting nearly enough from the additional earnings to be made from value-added pursuits. These days, timber harvesting having become even more circumscribed by environmental constraints, the government needs to be reminded of its responsibility to implement and, more importantly, enforce the monitoring mechanisms to ensure the harvested timber attracts the promised value-added input.

To return to the issue of the seven hundred Guyanese employees which Bai Shan Lin says it wants to recruit, it is it comforting to learn that at least some of the skills required for kick-starting the company’s investment are available in Guyana, It would, of course, be equally gratifying to know that the Chinese company has also made allowances for the transfer of skills to its Guyanese work force in order that they can remain employable for the remainder of the project and beyond. Quite apart from the taxes and other returns that will accrue to the public treasury from the Bai Shan Lin investment, we ought to be able to anticipate that jobs, many jobs will flow from it.

The sheer size of the projected Bai Shan Lin work force raises another key issue, that of ensuring the existence of mechanisms for the protection of the rights of the local work force. No one wants to preempt just how the relationship between the Chinese employers and their Guyanese work force will pan out, though it is worth recalling that in recent years we have had to deal with some ugly episodes as far as the relationship between the Rusal managers and the Guyanese employees at the Kwakwani bauxite operations are concerned, and, perhaps more importantly, it is worth noting as well that the Government of Guyana has been less than assertive in laying down the law as far as Rusal’s adherence to workers’ rights is concerned.

Here, the question that arises is whether, given primarily the size of its labour force, the Chinese company would not be well advised to make allowances for strong and effective labour representation and to create a human resources management team that helps the company to operate with the compass of a clear and enlightened understanding of the Guyanese work ‘culture.’

There have been times when we might have been led to believe that foreign investors are not particularly keen on labour unions which are sometimes seen as impediments to the effective implementation of the wishes of management. We know from the experience of Omai Gold Mines Ltd that this is far from true, and just last week another Canadian investor, Guyana Goldfields told this newspaper that it was altogether disposed to the unionization of its local employees. There is really no reason why Bai Shan Lin ought not to be amenable to legal mechanisms that protect workers’ rights and here one expects that the government will assume a posture which causes the investor to get a sense of what is expected of it as far as the protection of workers’ rights is concerned.

If, therefore, the announcement that Bai Shan Lin is about to kickstart several major projects in Guyana and that in the process several hundred Guyanese will secure employment ,is a noteworthy development, it really does no harm to remind both the company and the Guyana Government of the commitments that attend the undertaking.


New visitors

The ‘badlands’  of Guyana have long been some of the mining areas, particularly those close to the frontier and far from government centres of control.

Unfulfilled prescriptions

It is a fairly safe bet to say that in the last twenty years consultants have produced enough documents to paper the walls of the ministries that commissioned them.

Standards in the construction industry

On August 8, 2017, we reported the story of Althea Thegg, who, nearing the completion of the construction of a new house – her dream home – had the nightmarish experience of watching a large section of the house crumble and fall away from the main building.

Parking meters and secrecy

The discussions which will be held today when the Report of the Metered Parking Negotiation Committee is formally presented to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) are bound to be interesting, to put it mildly.

Total solar eclipse

Next Monday, August 21, a rare solar eclipse will occur. According to the path of most eclipses either fall across the path of water or unpopulated areas of the earth, however this rarity’s path of totality will stay completely within only the United States of America, the first of its kind since 1776.

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