Labour Minister, Dr. Nan Kishore Gopaul on Tuesday disputed claims by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) that garment manufacturers and other businesses could soon lay off workers because inadequate notice about a new minimum wage of GUY$35,000 was jeopardizing existing contracts.
The PSC feared that garment manufacturers-exporters- which have to compete with such countries as China, Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic-are now faced with the prospect of laying off workers “in order to avoid the collapse of their businesses.”
But the Labour Minister explained that consideration was given to that industry, the largest being Denmor, and it was agreed that apprentices would not be paid the minimum wage until they would have become permanent employees.
“Once people are trained, I can’t see how they can’t be competitive,” Gopaul countered, adding that the Guyana equivalent of US$175 should not be too much to pay.
The umbrella business organisation expressed disappointment that government did not consult with the Commission on that crucial issue which affects not only employers but the sustained livelihood of thousands of Guyanese workers.
But Gopaul stressed that public pronouncements by government several months ago and the more than one-month notice of the new wage should not have caught the PSC by surprise. He said the business community was represented by the Consultative Association of Guyana (CAGI) in the tripartite body with labour and government.
“There has never been a call by the PSC to be represented in the tripartite body,” the minister told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
Warning that the workers could be laid off, the PSC urged that bidders of government contracts be given time to renegotiate because the one-month notice was insufficient because businesses did not have enough time to enter into new deals.
“For many employers, including security firms and exporters who have contracts with foreign firms, the lack of adequate notice means that they would have already negotiated contracts based upon the old wage rates and are not now in a position to renegotiate those contracts,” the PSC said.
The PSC said it welcomed the new national minimum wage of $35,000 per month and felt that that was a long overdue move to bring relief to the lowest paid workers in Guyana.
Reacting to the PSC’s concern that the new provision for a 40 hour work week would be restricted to five days and would exclude Saturdays , the Labour Minister clarified that the number of required hours could be worked over a any six day period except Sunday.