Guyana blazes occupational health, safety trail
A GINA feature by May Ann Cheong
Guyana Chronicle
December 30, 2002

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A HUGE fire in 2001 destroyed the office of the Ministry of Labour, forcing the relocation of the Ministry to Cornhill Street. Subsequently, the Human Services and Social Security element was merged with the Ministry.

At the helm of the Ministry is Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security is Dr. Dale Bisnauth, who is ably assisted by Minister within the same Ministry Ms. Bibi Safora Shadick.

As we approach the end of the year, we look at some of the achievements of that Ministry. Guyana was represented by Minister Bisnauth and a team at an International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention held in June in Geneva.

Because of its outstanding work in the area of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), and the advanced stage of the programmes by Guyana (our programmes are more advanced compared to other Caribbean countries) Guyana was lead speaker at the event.

Guyana is also the only country to enact the OSH Act, which was brought into force in 1999. The Ministry published a booklet on Occupational Safety and Health, which was launched in 2001. This was the result of wide interest shown by several work organisations.

And in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), a plan was launched, to provide guidelines for HIV/AIDS patients’ care in the community and the family through health services.

A drug was also introduced on the market, which was to greatly reduce the effects on the deadly virus. This new drug coincided with the launching of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) of HIV/AIDS programme by the Ministry of Health.

Further, Guyana was represented at an annual conference to discuss “HIV/AIDS in the workplace”. This conference was held in Geneva and focused on Child Labour and HIV/AIDS.

There were some 2,700 delegates in attendance. A group from the Inter-Regional Organisation of Workers (ORIT) and the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) visited Guyana on a fact-finding mission. This visit preceded an executive meeting of ORIT/CCL in October 2002.

The Ministry also embarked on a programme of inspection and investigation aimed at ensuring that employers complied with the labour laws of Guyana in relation to wages and holidays with pay.

The Minister and a team from his Ministry, which included public health officials, visited a number of work sites to inspect the conditions there. These included the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), Omai Gold Mines Limited and Bounty Farms Incorporated.

There were also a number of sensitisation seminars for users and producers of labour statistics. These attracted senior managers from the private and public sectors, as well as businessmen and trade union representatives. Guyana is rated at number three in the Labour Market Information System (LMIS).

The functions of the Ministry’s second Minister, Ms. Bibi Shadick, are concentrated on the Human Services and Social Security element within the Ministry.

One of the highlights of her Ministry was the opening of the Drop-In Centre. The Centre served to facilitate programmes for street children, ranging from basic literacy and numeracy to counseling and skills training. There are also programmes for parents.

Training for counselors in community social work is another area focused on. Through a collaborated effort of the Ministries of Health, Labour, Human Services and Social Security, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), some 150 participants benefited from this programme.

The creation of a database for Old Age Pension and Public Assistance is still to be completed because all the necessary lists required for its compilation were not handed in. A new system of payment for pensioners was introduced. This was aimed at reducing the irregularities within the system and sparked countrywide investigation into what has been described as one of the biggest scams in recent times.

Countrywide investigations began and some 20 employees from the Guyana Post Office Corporation, including postmasters, as well as three employees from the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security were interdicted from duty.

These irregularities in the distribution of Old Age Pension books resulted in the introduction of new pension books with additional security features. Since January 14, the new books were distributed across the country, with provisions being made for those persons who were “shut-ins”.

A collaborated effort between the Ministries of Education and Labour, Human Services and Social Security resulted in the launching of a school-feeding and school uniform distribution campaign.

This followed the appointment of a special Task Force in November 2001, with Cabinet allocating $31M for uniform distribution. Some problems had halted the distribution of the vouchers for the assistance but according to Minister Shadick, applicants had to meet a number of requirements in order to qualify for assistance.

The Probation and Welfare Department of the Ministry embarked on rehabilitation programmes, joining forces with the Home Affairs and Health Ministries to prepare offenders at the Mazaruni and Georgetown prisons for their return to society.

Shadick also represented Guyana at the United Nations Special Session for Children held in New York, in May 2002. This was the Seventh Special Session to look further at the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Minister highlighted Guyana’s National Action Plan for Children, where such areas as family, health and nutrition, education, education and literacy and water and sanitation were the focus.

Twelve-year-old Vincent Mandinghi, the young man shot by Police, received an artificial leg, presented to him by Shadick on behalf of the Government. The leg was produced by the National Orthopaedic and Prosthetic workshop located at the Ptolemy Reid Centre.

A two-week meeting to focus on development of youths was organised by the Probation and Family Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Some 35 young people participated.

The Fourth Caribbean Early Childhood Conference under the theme “Nurturing young minds to meet challenges” resulted in the realisation of two primary objectives, which included the building and strengthening of national associations and the implementation of the Caribbean Plan of Action (1997-2002).

The Seventh Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) was held on October 23-25 at Le Meridien Pegasus. Technology in education, crime and security, the rights of children, Carifesta VIII and HIV/AIDS were issues discussed during the meeting.

November 25 was the day marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and several programmes were organised by the Women’s Affairs Bureau (WAB), which included a candlelight procession, church service, rally and symposium. -
(Government Information Agency - GINA)

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