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Private Sector opposes paying overtime for new work-week

Vice Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Clinton Urling.

Guyana’s business community is opposed to paying overtime for Saturdays and instead wants government to stagger the 40 hour work-week over six days.

Although the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has welcomed the GUY$35,000 minimum wage, it wants its introduction to be postponed from July 1 and for Saturdays to be part of normal workers to avoid paying overtime. Government has so far not given in to any of its demands.

PSC Vice Chairman, Clinton Urling says paying overtime for Saturdays will push up the cost of doing business and can fuel inflation which can in turn result in an economic downturn.

“Cost is a major issue in private sector companies and this will represent another cost which I am not saying will have a negative effect overall but it certainly puts pressure on the economy and on businesses to perform and it could increase inflationary pressures and possibly contribute to reduced economic growth coming in at the end of the year,” he said.

Urling said the PSC preferred to see the minimum wage increase by GUY$1,000 or GUY$2,000 to cater for persons working 40 hours over a six day period.

He also argued that the 40-hour formula would remove a productive day, adding to the long list of national holidays.

Labour Minister Dr. Nankishore Gopaul, however, maintains that the 40-hour work-week can be staggered to include any of the five days except Sunday. “I told them that once they have more than a certain number of employees they can spread it because there’ll be bad days in business when you don’t require (all the staff),” he said.

Gopaul, who met representatives of the business community on Monday under the umbrella of the PSC on Tuesday to discuss the issue, emphasised that the 40 hours could be worked over any five days. Sundays, he said, would be covered under the Factories Act because workers are entitled to the premium rate.

But the PSC Vice Chairman countered saying that formula was not feasible for entities like mining companies and hospitality entities. “Currently, it is a six-day work week. Workers can come in on Saturdays and work. With this new arrangement, we have to ask workers to come in and work. It’s not statutory. We have to ask them to come in and it’s treated as overtime,” he said.

The PSC intends to conduct a national study to determine the impact of the five-day work week on businesses before returning to government to make a stronger case on the issue.

The Labour Minister says a five-day 40 hour work week is in keeping with global expectations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Guyana is not among the 15 countries that have ratified the Forty-Hour Work Week Convention of 1935, according to the ILO website.