- contracts with Govt, investors determine local employment
Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in third world countries are welcomed, particularly for the creation of jobs. The situation in Guyana is no different since very often, contracts entered into by Government with investors determine the level of local employees. However, there are certain job-skills that would have to be imported.
This is according to a senior official of the Ministry of Labour, who said that the desirable scenario in signing these agreements is to have local employment secured.
However, foreign investors feel more comfortable with having familiar persons around.
In fact, not so long ago, Government inked a construction contract for the Marriott-branded hotel in Guyana with Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) with one of the conditions being no Guyanese would be employed in the initial phases.
The justification was that the Guyanese labour force did not have the skills to build such a hotel. Incidentally, Government did not even find it necessary to include a clause that would allow the transfer of skills to prevent a similar situation in the future. Even now at the hotel, where the fence is under construction, there is no local labour evident in its construction. Government has said that the hotel would employ locals for the latter phases.
In addition, Government jumped at the opportunity of lowering the cost of constructing the hotel from US$65M to US$51M at the expense of the Guyanese labour force.
According to the official, the utilization of foreign labourers is monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs- the agency that issues work permits. Personnel of the Ministry are tasked with visiting work sites to ensure investors do not employ more foreigners than the agreed number in the contract.
It has been observed that foreigners have been taking on traditional jobs such as truck drivers and heavy duty operators particularly in the mining and forestry sectors.
For instance, the majority of heavy duty vehicles and trucks owned by Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese company operating in Guyana’s forestry sector, are operated by Chinese nationals. Circumstances under which the foreign nationals were granted drivers’ licences were questioned since a language barrier exists.
The official said that there is a shortage of heavy-duty operators in Guyana. And, even though, there is continuous training, there seems not to be enough to satisfy the various sectors.
It is unclear how many Guyanese are shortchanged with this situation since the rate of unemployment is unknown.
According to the official, the Ministry of Labour is still computing data from the recently completed census. He explained that the Ministry of Labour’s primary roles include mediation, conciliation and to ensure good working conditions exist.
While, many Guyanese have gained employment with these foreign companies, the conditions under which they work are reportedly not in keeping with regulations. The official related that many persons working in the hinterland have been exploited by both foreign and local companies but the Ministry’s hands are tied and can only act once a complaint has been lodged.
The official noted that the Ministry has been doing a fairly good job to help persons receive outstanding payments in the interior. For example, the Ministry was able to recover about $20M in outstanding payments to workers for this year thus far.
The official pointed out that the Ministry is currently moving to get a foreign logging company prosecuted for not paying a family for woods cut.
Only recently, Bai Shan Lin was accused of paying the few locals it employs in Region 10, $500 per day- an allegation the company denies. If that were the case it would mean that the company is in violation of the new minimum wage order of $35,000 per month.
According to the company, for interior locations, most of the Guyanese employed are paid based on performance, “the more you work, the more you will earn.”
The performance scheme was acknowledged by some Amerindians who said they were promised payment on the size and number of logs cut. However, they were never given the opportunity to measure the size of logs. In addition, they accused the company of having outstanding payments for them.