Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally has moved to distance herself from the controversial plan by her junior minister Keith Scott to bar security companies from using single mothers on night shifts.
A statement that was issued by her office on Monday in response to Scott’s plan said that while the ministry remains open to practical options that would provide flexibility for working single mothers, it would not adopt measures or policies that would “contribute or impede single parent women being hired in all sectors.”
It is the second statement from the government that contradicts Scott’s plans. Minister of State Joseph Harmon last Thursday announced that the government had not approved any policy to prevent single mothers from working night shifts at guard services.
Ally’s statement made it clear that the ministry has no current or future intention to create any policy that would exclude single parent women from any sector in Guyana, whether it is voluntary or involuntary. “We are cognizant of the far reaching consequence of the implementation of such a policy, such as the widening of the gender gap, which the Ministry has been working towards bridging… for years,” it added.
It said while an important aspect of the ministry’s mandate is to remove constraints to women’s economic participation in the work force, it also has to ensure that they do not face discrimination and have equal access to employment, free from gender discrimination, including discrimination based on traditional sex stereotypes, pregnancy, and parenting.
“We are committed to ensuring that all sectors work better for women, [ensuring] equal access to gainful employment; the provision of equal terms of conditions for women, safe working conditions and [ensuring] women full participation in the economy which is vital to achieving sustainable development in Guyana,” it continued.
Further, the ministry said it stands ready and willing to work with all stakeholders in both private and public sectors to champion any future policy modification necessary to guarantee the social and economic advancement and status of women, especially single parents in Guyana. Last week, Scott’s office stated that the ministry intended to “minimise in the first instance and eventually eliminate night work for single mothers within the Private Security Industry.”
Scott, who has direct responsibility for labour, had announced on August 24 that he was going to request senior government officials to ensure that the contracts for the provision of private security services provide for the exclusion of single mothers from night work.
The statement from his ministry said that whatever policies are developed, single mothers should not be compelled to do night work, but should not be deterred from doing so if they elect to.
In an invited comment, Red Thread’s coordinator Karen de Souza had warned that the move could lead security firms to stop offering employment to single mothers.
The Guyana Association of Private Security Organisations (GAPSO) also flayed Scott’s plan as “a cruel and arbitrary attack on the sector.” “GAPSO feels that it is a high-handed and unilateral approach being adopted by the Government and definitely lacks insight or thinking outside the box. It remains unclear why only the private security sector was selected while other professions are excluded and what suggestions if any there [are] to solve the inevitable unemployment that will arise therefrom,” a GAPSO statement had said.
The Women’s Progressive Organisation, the women’s arm of the opposition PPP, also criticised Scott’s plan.