Qualfon visit by Ministry unearths poor facilities, health and safety issues

Qualfon employees yesterday spoke out about     inadequate facilities and poor safety measures, when Minister within       the Ministry of Social Protection Simona Broomes and a team visited their Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara worksite.

Broomes, under whose mandate labour matters fall, engaged staff at the different levels of the call centre separately.

Among the issues raised were junior staff being allotted a 25-minute lunch break by the company. This the minister cited to be a breach of the laws of Guyana, which stipulate an hour for lunch in the Labour Act. Staff members also expressed dissatisfaction with the meals prepared by the canteen and the behaviour of its staff. They criticized the fact that there are just two washrooms, which are inadequate for a staff of 1,200 employees and that there is scheduling of their bathroom breaks. More so, the women spoke of contracting infections from the washrooms.

Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Simona Broomes (third, left) and her team talking to some of the Qualfon staff, at Qualfon Goedverwating
Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Simona Broomes (third, left) and her team talking to some of the Qualfon staff, at Qualfon Goedverwating

The staff also mentioned that several colleagues had contracted chicken pox at the workplace. Middle management later claimed that they had tried their best to contain the spread of the infectious disease.

Minister Broomes stressed that workers’ health and safety were important and urged that the call centre management observe Occupational Safety and Health procedures, following the right measures to take in the event of an outbreak.

In addition, Qualfon staff complained about how the company calculates their overtime payment and the taxes on their bonuses. Moreover, they said they had to work on holidays and were only granted 12 days leave per year, which they are not allowed to take all at once.

At the end of the visit, Broomes said training will be provided on labour-related issues and she will meet with management for further discussions on workers’ rights, their welfare and occupational health and safety in the workplace.

According to the minister the next step after inspection is to have compliance with the law. “Once there is compliance…there could be a better worker and employee relationship and that is what we [the Ministry of Social Protection] hope to achieve.” The minister said that during her visits a complete survey of the businesses will be taken, including records, so that the ministry will know where businesses stand as regards laws and policies, how the workers are working and if it is in keeping with the laws.

The minister’s visit to the call centre is part of an ongoing country-wide inspection and followed numerous anonymous complaints from different companies, including Qualfon.

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