Workplaces make for interesting study
Kaieteur News
April 1, 2007

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A report on employment practices in Region Four compiled by the Ethnic Relations Commission seems to suggest that there is rampant racism among employers in Guyana.

Pamela Rodney, who was integral in compiling the information, said that the report showed that a large percentage of those that were fired were Afro-Guyanese. The report also stated that employees believe that employers have a tendency of hiring people of their own race first.

One would have expected that this would have been a thing of the past, especially at this time when there is a shortage of skills in this society, given the rate of migration. Private businesses often seek to recruit the best person since success or failure depends on its ability to be as efficient as possible.

For this reason, some of them would scour the University of Guyana for potential employees and having identified them, would sometimes grant them scholarships that would see the private company funding a part of the student's university costs.

On the other hand, Government offices tend to be more liberal, perhaps because the money for the wage and salary comes from the public treasury. It is taxpayers' money and represents no loss to any individual or company.

This is why private companies are run so much better than Government companies. The late President Desmond Hoyte once opted to privatise Government entities because as he put it, Government has no place in business since it is a poor manager.

And what is significant is that people in Government employ take more sick days, are absent more often, and are prone to being chronic latecomers when compared to people in the private sector.

One would expect that managers would put a stop to such non-productive activities but in the government sector, these managers are less than vigilant. It is as if they are content to go with the flow, regardless of the outcome. And ever so often at the end of an evaluation by the government authorities there are dismissals.

Termination of service was the single most complaint that engaged the Labour Ministry between August 2001 and August 2006, according to the report. The report says that the Labour Ministry received more than 1800 complaints mostly from employees who were fired from within the private sector.

And this had to be expected because the private sector equates production with profit. There is no room for non-productive employees. Dishonesty, too, is dealt with swiftly by the private sector although we are increasingly finding that mere suspicion could lead to termination of service within the private sector. Just this past week the Guyana Human Rights Association had cause to criticise the action by Republic Bank when it terminated the services of six employees in the wake of the theft of some $8 million from an automatic banking machine that the bank had established at a gas station in Kitty.

There was no evidence that any of these employees were involved except for the fact that they possessed the codes to access the machine. The image captured by the close circuit camera was inconclusive and the period of incarceration did nothing to force the semblance of a confession from the six.

As the report shows, most of those terminated were of African ancestry and the greatest number was found within the private sector. The issue of race may not be probable cause; it may simply result from the fact that these people have the worse work ethic and are dealt with condignly.

Is the work ethic a result of some cultural aberration? We think not. It maybe that these people are more likely to seriously question decisions. Yet, it is revealing, especially at a time when people of African ancestry are talking about marginalisation.

Indeed most people who hold executive positions in the private sector are of African ancestry. Given the incidence of termination of people of the same race, one would suggest that there is intolerance for anyone who seeks to threaten the existence of the company.

The report found that most of the executives in the public sector are people of Indian ancestry and the rate of dismissal is less.

The report adds that there was no evidence to suggest that human resources personnel in the private sector assigned positions based on age, religion, sex or ethnicity, but in the public sector positions were given based on sex and age.

Rodney said that work places do not receive complaints from employees when denied promotions. Is there complacency? Is there a tacit acceptance that it is better to remain silent when bypassed since any attempt to rock the boat could lead to termination at this time when jobs are not easy to come by?

The report needs to explore these issues.