Guysuco, unions join forces in workplace policy for HIV/AIDS

By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 17, 2003

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Guysuco has joined with union leaders to fight HIV/AIDS by developing a workplace policy that would ensure that the company’s employees are fully informed about the prevention, care and treatment of the virus.

The policy, which was signed by all the parties involved yesterday at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, sets out how GUYSUCO will relate to its employees and what it will do to fight the virus. The policy states that the company will not discriminate against those infected with and affected by the virus.

The policy document says the corporation recognises the potential seriousness of the virus’ development and as such has based the company’s policy guidelines on international recommendations and practices and its implications for business, employees and the wider community.

The corporation has also recognised that it must have the support of all its stakeholders in the fight and to this end the unions have been charged with giving direction to, and overseeing the implementation of the policy and the resulting interventions. The committee will also work with other agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOS) in the fight.

The policy focuses on testing, confidentiality of HIV/AIDS results of workers, employment opportunities, care, treatment and support of persons living with HIV/AIDS, programmes for the prevention of transmission of HIV and disciplinary actions against workers who discriminate against infected persons.

In the area of testing, the policy states that there will be no mandatory testing and the test results of employees will not be revealed unless by written consent.

The company says it will provide a supportive environment and will follow national guidelines and referrals for treatment. Health workers will be trained in the management of persons living with the virus. The corporation will also undertake interventions on prevention and has already begun awareness programmes. By the end of this year it will have trained some forty trainers who will then train peer educators. Three persons will be drawn from all levels of the organisation and will be trained in the management of HIV and to give support to employees and their families.

Vic Oditt, Chairman of the Board of Directors, whose resignation will be effective from the end of this month, said the company recognised that HIV was not only a workplace issue but also a major threat facing not only its employees but the communities that they lived and worked in. He pointed out that if the corporation wished to address this threat then it had to involve all stakeholders.

“We have much to learn about the disease and its impact on our organisation and within our communities that surround our estates.”

It was against this backdrop that the company and its partners put a committee in place comprising management and representatives from both unions, the Guyana Agricultural & General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), who have worked very closely in developing the policy. “This joint approach must continue as we work to develop a plan of action aimed at raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS and its prevention and how we can provide support mechanisms in our organisation and in our communities,” Oditt said.

“We can no longer pretend that HIV/AIDS is not a problem in Guyana. We have only to look east to Africa and to Asia … to see the impact that AIDS is having in those regions...We must attack the issue of discrimination and stigmatisation of those living with the disease and provide a supportive environment.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy noted that the company had the largest workforce in the country and through the policy could touch not only workers but others through them.

He said that the programme would be taken home by the workers and would influence not only their families but also their friends.

Also making brief remarks at the signing ceremony were Presidents of GAWU and NAACIE, Komal Chand and Kenneth Joseph and Execu-tive Director of Guysuco, Michael Boast.

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