Oil and gas, avi­a­tion sec­tors to be ‘in­ducted’ into work­place safety al­liance - Scott

-Lewis takes Min­is­ter to task on work­ers’ rights is­sues

Stabroek News - - STABROEK BUSINESS -

The oil and gas and avi­a­tion sec­tors are to be in­cluded in an “al­liance” cre­ated by the Min­istry of So­cial Pro­tec­tion in an ef­fort to curb the in­ci­dence of ac­ci­dents in the var­i­ous sec­tors, Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of So­cial Pro­tec­tion Keith Scott told the Na­tional Assem­bly in his post-bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion ear­lier this week.

While the pre­sen­ta­tion prof­fered no de­tails re­gard­ing the struc­ture of the al­liance and how it will func­tion Scott said that the al­liance al­ready in­cludes the Guyana Ge­ol­ogy and Mines Com­mis­sion, (GGMC), the Na­tional In­sur­ance Scheme (NIS) and the Forestry De­part­ment to bet­ter mon­i­tor safe work prac­tices in re­mote ar­eas” and has now been ex­tended to in­clude the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. A fur­ther ex­ten­sion, he said, will em­brace “the off­shore en­ter­prises and those agen­cies in­volved in the air­craft in­dus­try,” Scott said in his pre­sen­ta­tion.

The dis­clo­sure by Scott came against the back­drop of what Scott said was gov­ern­ment’s con­cern with the num­ber of work­place fa­tal­i­ties that have oc­curred, par­tic­u­larly in the min­ing sec­tor, “in re­cent times.” While no sta­tis­tics were pro­vided on min­ing sec­tor ac­ci­dents for the cur­rent year, Scott dis­closed that for the year so far a to­tal of 506 “in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents” had oc­curred re­sult­ing in 19 fa­tal­i­ties. “This is an un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion par­tic­u­larly in the min­ing sec­tor where the ma­jor­ity of the fa­tal­i­ties oc­curred,” Scott said.

The dis­clo­sure that “the off­shore en­ter­prises” will be in­ducted into gov­ern­ment’s safety and health ‘in­ner sanc­tum” would ap­pear to point to move­ment in the wider process of pre­par­ing for the ad­vent of oil and gas re­cov­ery in 2020. Pub­lic dis­clo­sure on a safety regime that will take ac­count of the con­sid­er­a­tions as­so­ci­ated with oil and gas re­cov­ery has se­cured only lim­ited promi­nence up to this time.

In the wake of Scott’s pre­sen­ta­tion, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lin­coln Lewis told the Stabroek Busi­ness that given the APNU+AFC’s “his­toric in­dif­fer­ence” to the abuse and hu­mil­i­a­tion of work­ers em­ployed with the ma­jor­ity Rus­sianowned Baux­ite Com­pany of Guyana Inc (BCGI), there was a hol­low ring to the pro­nounce­ment by Scott re­gard­ing the man­date of the Min­istry of So­cial Pro­tec­tion with re­gard to “fair­ness, jus­tice and equal­ity.”

As­sert­ing that the Min­is­ter “must be one of very few peo­ple who be­lieves that the ad­min­is­tra­tion hon­estly pur­sues that man­date”, Lewis told the Stabroek Busi­ness that gov­ern­ment “spent most of its time fail­ing to make mean­ing­ful de­ci­sions de­signed to en­sure that the Rus­sian man­agers at BCGI re­spected the rights of its em­ploy­ees. If you want to know the ex­tent to which fair­ness, jus­tice and eq­uity ob­tained at BCGI just ask the work­ers them­selves,” Lewis told the Stabroek Busi­ness.

In his ad­dress, Scott dis­closed that gov­ern­ment was mov­ing to­wards the amend­ment of the 76 year-old Labour Act which he said was ‘de­fi­cient in many ways” not­with­stand­ing the “series of piece­meal ad­just­ments” that it had un­der­gone over the years. Scott told the Na­tional Assem­bly that the val­ues of the present po­lit­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion can­not be man­i­fested with the cur­rent laws es­pe­cially as these re­late to “or­di­nary cit­i­zens who can be ad­van­taged by a very pow­er­ful em­ployer.”

But Lewis dis­missed what he de­scribed as Scott’s “plat­i­tudes” as­sert­ing that “laws can have no trac­tion in the ab­sence of a clear com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing their full and ef­fec­tive ap­pli­ca­tion. I am afraid both the present ad­min­is­tra­tion and the pre­vi­ous one had myr­iad op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­strain the Rus­sian man­agers at BCGI and they failed to do so,” Lewis said.

Scott, mean­while, told the Na­tional Assem­bly that gov­ern­ment had un­der­taken to es­tab­lish ei­ther an In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Court or an In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Tri­bunal and that in pur­suit of this ob­jec­tive his Min­istry had un­der­taken en­gage­ments with “the ma­jor stake­hold­ers” who com­prise the Na­tional Tri­par­tite Com­mit­tee which is cur­rently ex­am­in­ing the pro­posed Bill de­signed to bring into ex­is­tence ei­ther a court or a tri­bunal. The ob­jec­tive of this in­sti­tu­tion, Scott said, would be “to en­hance labour/man­age­ment re­la­tions and ul­ti­mately the qual­ity of life of all work­ers, who should be able to ex­pe­ri­ence de­cent work­ing con­di­tions.”

Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of So­cial Pro­tec­tion Keith Scott

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