SOL’s Surinamese management summoned by Labour Minister over alleged breaches of Guyana’s laws
A Friday morning visit to the Agricola, East Bank Demerara headquarters of SOL Guyana Inc. by Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton, did little to address the complaints of employees in relation to the company’s failure to honour Guyana’s labour laws on the payment of overtime.
As such, Minister Hamilton has had cause to write the Surinamese management of the company, inviting them to a meeting at his office set for May 6,, 2021.
At that meeting, the minister along with labour officers hope to address the complaints which include the company’s failure to pay overtime and the implementation of foreign rules in relation to the issue.
Workers, who have challenged the company on the issues, have also complained of threats and intimidation from management.
An employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told the News Room that the company paid over time up until the start of the pandemic in March 2020; soon after, it was taken away because of the economic challenges COVID-19 posed.
More than a year later, with the reopening of the economy and business back to normal, workers say their over time is still not being paid.
They complained that with the arrival of a new Operations Manager from Suriname, the company has sought to introduce a system where instead of paying overtime, workers will be given back the hours as days off.
This, Minister Hamilton says, is totally against the laws of Guyana.
“Apparently, in Suriname, they don’t pay overtime. What they do is calculate the overtime and they give you as days off. So that is what they have migrated here but the law here is that you have to pay money,” the Labour Minister told the News Room on Friday.
According to the laws of Guyana, overtime is to be paid after every eight-hour shift.
Hamilton said when he visited the Head Office on Friday, he was told that the General Manager, Earl Carribon, along with Operations Manager, Ashreen Tekai, both Surinamese, were unavailable.
He said he managed to speak to the Finance Manager and a Project Engineer, however, both persons were prevented from providing information on the situation by the General Manager who was on the phone.
“I don’t even allow Guyanese employers to attempt to take advantage of Guyanese people, I take great offence when people who come to this country to work think they can take advantage. That will not happen… there are no sacred cows,” the Labour Minister emphasised.
Hamilton, in a direct message to the workers, said that they have nothing to be afraid of.
“You have nothing to fear via people attempting to intimidate you by speaking up and out for your rights and seeking intervention from the authorities. Any such attempt to penalize people for standing up for their rights, we will take it to the other place,” he warned.
The News Room also reached out to the General Workers Union that represents the staff of Sol Guyana. The union’s General Secretary, Pancham Singh, said there was a meeting between the two sides recently where the matter was resolved.
He said the union received some of the same complaints and was subsequently informed that some employees who were owed overtime had begun to be paid.
“They did try to give them back hours instead of paying overtime… which is against Guyanese law… but that has been rectified… I don’t know if they want to try it again but we will have to look into it,” Singh said during a telephone call.
Several workers who spoke to the News Room on Friday claimed that their overtime payments were still outstanding with a continued insistence from the company to offer days off instead of payment.