Jagdeo, Norton in bitter row over recruitment of Bangladeshis, other foreign healthcare workers

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2024, 19:48 by Denis Chabrol

Mr. Aubrey Norton Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Thursday accused the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration of failing to pay healthcare workers more but was preparing to hire Bangladeshis and other foreign healthcare workers at higher salaries, but Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said they would be paid the same as Guyanese.

“You cannot bring Bangladeshis, bring whoever you want to bring and pay them higher than our workers with the same expertise. It is not only hypocrisy, it is disrespectful and it is a manifestation of the incompetence and divisiveness of the People’s Progressive Party,” Mr Norton told a news conference Thursday morning.

Describing the opposition’s claim as “patently false”, he promised that foreign healthcare workers would not be paid more than their local counterparts if they come to work with the government. “If they come to work in the public sector, their conditions of service will be no better than what the Guyanese get. It would be comparable to what our people get for the particular skill,” he told a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Jagdeo also scoffed at Mr Norton’s repeated claims that Bangladeshis were being hired so that, as Commonwealth citizens, they would be able to vote, after being in Guyana for one year, for the PPPC in the November 2025 general and regional elections because that party’s support was dwindling. “The only party that’s losing support in this country is APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) and AFC (Alliance For Change) so it’s excuse for elections that they know they will lose,” he said.

The Opposition Leader suggested that employment contracts for foreigners should prohibit them from voting in Guyana’s elections, even as he cautioned that they could face hostility because of a direct attack on Guyanese. “They are putting Bangladeshi and other people’s lives at risk because when Guyanese see then doing these nonsense, it angers them and I believe that the PPP regime is fighting for a confrontation in this country and I see this as part of the confrontation that they are seeking,” he said.

Mr Jagdeo explained that the policy to grant recruitment agencies formal approval was aimed at preventing trafficking in persons to Guyana which is in the grips of a labour shortage in the construction and eventually the health sector as 12 more government hospitals were being built and others would be rehabilitated. “We have a labour shortage in Region Four particularly for some types of labour and if want these projects to be completed- the bridge, the highways etc.- we have to do that,” he said.

Specifically, he said Guyana needed doctors, specialists and nurses at a time when many healthcare workers were taking up lucrative paying jobs in the United Kingdom. Mr Norton said the shortage of nurses could have been avoided or remedied even now if the Guyana government paid them increased salaries.

For the Vice President, the immediate problem of a labour shortage has to be addressed to cater for the hospitals. “We have to recruit people to come and work in these hospitals to make sure our people get the best quality care. We just can’t build the hospitals and leave them there without staff,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said government was discriminating against Haitians and Nigerians while facilitating Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans