Social Protection Ministry targeting mining sector on labour violations

Labour violations in the country’s mining sector will come increasingly under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Social Protection as a release issued by the ministry earlier this week puts employers “on notice” that government intends to ensure that labour laws are enforced and workers’ rights respected.

The release emanated from the office of Junior Minister of Social Protection Simona Broomes who, in recent weeks, has been instrumental in the settlement of long outstanding severance claims and other employee entitlements against private sector entities. Broomes’ most recent meeting with representatives of the Linden-based Bosai Mining Company opened yet another hornet’s nest of worker complaints regarding flaws in the calculation of salary and benefit entitlements which she told Stabroek Business were “in the process of being addressed.”

The ministry’s release, meanwhile, alluded to reports from workers claiming that they are “made to work under deplorable conditions, including having to work for months without pay… arbitrary dismissals attended by non-payment of severance entitlements including salaries and terminal benefits.”

Asked whether her now familiar visits to private sector workplaces will include the partially state-owned RUSAL mining company, where the Russian management has come under continual criticism for alleged infringement of labour laws, Broomes told Stabroek Business that the company was one of the entities she intends to visit.

Broomes had previously said that she believes there are numerous cases of what she described as “worker abuse” in the mining sector and this week’s release from the Social Protection Ministry says that many cases are “difficult to investigate” partially because some operators in the mining sector do not operate legitimate businesses.

Labour violations, primarily safety and health violations in the mining sector have come to public prominence recently in view of the frequency of mining accidents many of which have resulted in loss of life. The release says the Social Protection Ministry plans to collaborate with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Guyana Gold & Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) in its safety and health demarche on the mining sector.

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