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Labour Department focussing on working conditions at Regent Street stores

Junior Minister of Social Protection, Simona Broomes and a Workplace Inspector speaking with an employee of a store on Regen Street.

Top labour officials Tuesday morning swooped down on stores along Regent Street, Georgetown, inspecting working conditions and talking with ordinary staff, supervisors and managers.

Leading the team was Junior Minister of Social Protection, Simona Broomes. She was accompanied by technical including Chief Labour and Occupational Safety and Health Officer, Mr. Charles Ogle. “We decided to come out today with the Chief Labour Officer and have a first-hand look at what is happening at the store and see the environment and the conditions in which workers are working,” she said.

Broomes told representatives of the media that the ministry has been receiving numerous reports from workers and conducting inspections along that commercial thoroughfare. “What we find in most cases no compliance. People on Regent Street just have workers and you just pay them to work for the week and you just put ten thousand dollars in their hands, there is no pay-slip, there is no record,” she said.

The Minister said the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection has found that employers are deducting National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions but have not been paying those to that Social Security agency.

She said the time has come for employees at those stores to be treated fairly by their employers according to domestic law and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions. “It is something that has to be changed and they are not just store-girls or store-boys. They are workers and they should be treated like workers,” said Broomes. Conditions include cramped working areas, improper washroom facilities, no lunch area and filthy surroundings

Latest figures show that from May to September, 2015 the Ministry of Social Protection has received more than 60 workplace-related reports such as accidents- several unreported. Related to a number of those reports has been the payment of a total of GUY$15.5 million to workers for severance and other benefits.

The Social Protection Minister acknowledged that the laws and regulations need to be amended to provide for increased monetary penalties to be imposed on errant employers. Some fines are between GUY$10,000 and GUY$50,000.