Cognisant that statements he made during a visit to the Australian mining company, Troy Resources on Wednesday have stirred controversy in the business community, both locally and abroad, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton has opted to withdraw those statements.
The Minister said he was made aware that his comments at the Karouni, Region Seven mining operation stirred apprehension within the business community and wished to offer clarity.
“All I was attempting to say and do is that this government values private investment in Guyana. We are open for business under this PPP government and we see the private sector as the engine of growth, but at the same time, local content must be taken into consideration…the Ministry of Labour has a role to play in ensuring companies recognise the need for robust local content in development,” Minister Hamilton told the News Room.
He believes persons who were not physically present during his visit may have taken his comments out of context. He acknowledged that while he was “expressing a feeling he had at the time,” his language was “too harsh and firm.”
“If that created a stirring or apprehension…I would be the first to withdraw those comments; I have no difficulty doing that,” he added.
The Minister asserted that the government is pro-business but it is also a pro-working-class and pro-poor government. He said it must not be lost on anyone that as Minister of Labour, he has a responsibility to speak and protect the rights of workers.
During his visit to Troy Resources on Wednesday, Hamilton said he had serious concerns for the welfare of more than 300 employees there. The Minister said he felt “tense and pensive” from the moment he arrived. He departed after describing the camp as “combustible with intimidation.”
He also described the company’s Hicks operations as a communist country.
The Minister did not receive any complaints from the small number of employees he was allowed to engage. He said, however, that the visit by himself and a small team from the Ministry was prompted by complaints received prior to the visit.
He was personally concerned with the fact that there was no union or representative body for the workers.
Hamilton said he has held talks with the General Manager of Operations Colin Connors and remains prepared to work with him and the management to have this remedied.
“In the conversation, I was making the point on what the company can do to remedy fractious employee relations,” he added.
Connors has already welcomed the suggestions made by the Minster, describing it as a “great thing for the business.”
“We welcome those suggestions for ways to improve and engage with the entire workforce. The success of the operation and the company hinges on several things but one of them is an engaged workforce,” Connors told the News Room.