School cleaners are not receiving the new minimum wage

Dear Editor,

I am compelled to write after reading Priya Manickchand’s recent letter in defence of Ms Geetanjali Singh. Ms Manickchand’s attempt to spin conflict of interest into a women’s rights issue is appalling and deceptive. If Ms Manickchand really cared about women’s rights she’d make sure that the women who toil as cleaners at Guyana’s public schools are paid a decent, living wage.

As it is, months after the passage of the Minimum Wage Order, these poor women continue to be grossly underpaid ‒ working 8+ hours a day but earning less than $18K (US$90)/month. Trying to live and provide for a family on $18K a month is impossible. That’s $600 a day. I challenge Ms Manickchand and the rest of her friends to try it for just one week. Then, she can talk to me about women’s rights.

I call for the immediate implementation of the National Minimum Wage Order in all regions and sectors of Guyana, retroactive to July 1, the date of the Order’s passage. As quoted in a recent GINA article (Ref: http://gina.gov.gy/wp/?p=12071), “Under the new wage measure, no worker should be paid less than $202 per hour, $1,616 daily, $8,080 per week, or $35,000 per month.” As such, the Ministry of Education is clearly breaking the law.

In that same GINA article, according to the Minister of Labour, “those who are delinquent and pay their staff less than the national minimum wage will, if found guilty, pay a fine of $35,000 for the first offence. The second offence will result in a fine of $75,000 and one month in jail.”

Even though officials break/ignore the law all the time, the law remains the law and when arms of government fail to implement and enforce their own rules and regulations, they set a terrible example for the rest of the populace and contribute to the culture of lawlessness that pervades this nation.

This brings me to my final point, that of Ms Manickchand’s response to the growing problem of juvenile delinquency in our society today. Obviously, the education sector is failing the youth of Guyana. This, it seems to me, should be the focus of the Minister of Education, not petty politricking.

Yours faithfully,
Sherlina Nageer

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