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Chief Constable, Mayor sticking with rules on pregnancy-related dismissals

by Zena Henry

Amid concerns that pregnant women being fired from the City Constabulary during their training and probationary period and other Disciplined Services is discriminatory, the City’s Chief Constable and the Mayor of Georgetown are defending the enforcement of the current rules.

Chief Constable Andrew Foo has stated that the three female constables who got pregnant during a prohibited two year period and were fired, could return to the job after they would have delivered their babies.

The Chief Constable told Demerara Waves Tuesday July 4 that the two-year no pregnancy policy is an age-old one that sweeps across all the nation’s security and military agencies and is especially enforced during the agencies’ training periods.
Three aggrieved women have since taken the issue to the privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper, sparking off calls by rights activists for the regulation to be scrapped.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-aligned Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO) on Tuesday charged that the dismissal of the female members of the Constabulary violated Guyana’s Constitution that lists pregnancy as one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination.

Expressing shock and dismay at the dismissal of the women, the WPO called for their reinstatement and placement in less stressful environment. “We call for their immediate reinstatement and urge the City Constabulary as well as their Unions to immediately review this policy which clearly smacks of discrimination against women workers,” said the WPO.

The issue also drew condemnation from Social Activist, Mark Benschop and Women and Gender Equality Commissioner, Nicole Cole who picketed outside City Hall on Tuesday.

The City Constabulary’s Standing Orders states that among reasons for dismissal includes getting pregnant during the “stipulated probationary period” of two years. The Chief Constable explained that during that period rank undergo a six month training at the training school and fulfill their mandatory service during that time.

Foo said that the policy is an age old one that he came and met prior to his 27 year existence at the agency.
The Chief explained that 70 percent of the members of the Constabulary are females and they all accept the requirement before taking on the job.

Mayor Hamilton Green told Demerara Waves that after receiving information from the Chief Constable that the policy goes across security services, “my position is that our people must have a sense of responsibility.”

He said the current employment rules could not be broken, barring the amendment of the law.  “I’m not prepared to break those rules.” The Mayor felt that some sense of responsibility is required. “I would say to other females that they must also exercise in this new dispensation some level of discipline.”

The Mayor noted that for first time women in some developed countries are being allowed on naval vessels  because initially females were not wanted spending long time with men on the same ship. “Those women and men when they go on those boats they have certain precaution that must be taken to secure the integrity of the service; that is it at the end of the day-the integrity of the agency.”

It was noted however that should the women seek their jobs they could be rehired but they would have to recommence the service time. If they choose to challenge the matter they can take it to the Council’s Legal Affairs Committee who will bring it to Full Council.