Public sector terminations are being observed by foreign interests who also employ Guyanese

Dear Editor,

There has not been enough commentary, and too little retributive action, regarding the spate of terminations of employment across the Public Service, as well as the instant changes in memberships of Boards of Public Sector organizations.  In the latter case, the presumption seems to be that change is automatically for the better, so much so that a structured orientation programme is deemed unnecessary; as was any performance evaluation of the departing Board members – at least to reflect how much the ‘terminators’ know of organisational management and the criteria used for selecting replacements. (In the process one must insist on the provision of a justification of the arbitrary dismissal of the CEO of the Guyana Marketing Corporation, after a known lifetime of service).

A transitional exercise would at least have provided useful perspectives of the performance of the senior executive team now to be ‘directed’. In the absence of any such structured information it is not inconceivable that the parvenus can find themselves being guided (if not themselves in turn ‘directed’) by an astute (if not manipulative) executive team, whose performance they should logically review at some later point in time. (Are these Boards required to submit reports as do their private sector counterparts, albeit annually?) The substantive differentiation seen in recent decisions regarding terminations, is that while in the case of the Public Service there were individual victims, in Public Sector organisations it was the collective Board. It leaves one to enquire about the criteria used for such fatal judgments.

It also leaves one to enquire further why, in the former instance, the Guyana Public Service Union made no assertive representation and, en passant, whether there was any scope for the Ethnic Relations Commission to be involved. On the other hand it is obvious that the Ministry of Labour would have been substantively neutralised from arbitrating on any emerging complaints, particularly from pensionable public servants. By a similar token it is indeed appropriate to enquire to what extent the terms of ‘contracted employees’ were honoured. In the meantime, one is overwhelmed by the resounding silence which emanates from the legal arm (or ear) of the Opposition, as if that too were severed. 

What is of concern however, is that all these histrionics are being observed (and possibly recorded) by an increasing range of foreign interests who employ Guyanese, and who may be incited by the examples of misbehaviours of official decision-makers. One searches for the evidence of their being formally briefed on the legal requirements of employment in Guyana, and the implications; of the entitlement to unionised employee representation; of the authority of the Ministry of Labour to intervene concerning reported infractions against relevant laws. But some would have already observed the virtual immunity enjoyed by foreign employers in the bauxite and logging industries, for example.

There are more who would have had little or no prior experience of “industrial relations”; and are determined not to engage in any form of ‘equal’ relationships.  Not unlike some local counterparts, institutions such as the Trades Union Con-gress (TUC), Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) would hardly have been heard of. In brief, how then enforceable are our labour laws, moreso in an increasingly technological market, not to mention an unpredictable pandemic environment? We need desperately to have the dozens of newly appointed labour officers substantively authorised to investigate and enforce compliance – with NIS requirements, e.g. maternity and sick leave benefits, and pension. 

Already there are reports of rampant abuse of sensitive conditions of service as they apply to female employees who are described as ‘small business entrepreneurs’. One is directed particularly to locations in Regent and Robb Streets, Georgetown, occupied by an impressive number of foreign owners. It is against such a background of misdirections, or the absence of any official directives that it is possible to conceive of a local professional’s service being terminated without notice by his foreign employer, and unable to obtain appropriate redress. For it is not too fanciful to consider an environment in which the right type of legal representation already being contracted to comparable foreign interest and is therefore self-excusable from making even a simple enquiry. Meanwhile any other counter-active intervention is unlikely to be taken by any regulatory agency. These are by no means inconceivable employment issues to be addressed by any administration sensitive to the ramifications of international relationships.


E.B. John