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    For Labor Day 2022, we’d like to shed some light on the plight of the working class. Labor Day is observed on the 1st of May each year in Guyana. This year, Labor Day falls on a Sunday, so the following Monday is given as a day off from work.

    2nd of May, 2022. Guyana, South America. GSA News

    Last updated: May 2, 2022 at 18:28 pm

    Underpayment, exploitation, and mistreatment of working class citizens serve as a deterrent for Guyanese citizens needing to enter the workforce. It may discourage young people from seeking employment and push them into a life of crime. It may also push talented persons to seek employment abroad – further contributing to the ongoing brain drain from which Guyana has suffered for decades.

    The capitalist system employed in Guyana, while having its merits, unfortunately pays little attention to the development of human resources and focuses more on profits. Such a system must be closely monitored and regulated in order for it be successful.

    As a nation, we must work to correct the injustices being meted out to marginalized groups, and take measures to bridge the gap between rich and poor by providing meaningful, well-paid employment for all Guyanese irrespective of their skills or level of formal education.

    While many Guyanese are happily and profitably employed, many are facing enormous struggles, and a lot of work needs to be done in this regard. Here are two case scenarios which highlight the struggles of the working class in Guyana.

    The Case of Tenesha Fredericks

    In September, 2020, a Guyanese woman in her late 30s, Tanesha Fredericks, started working at a local subsidiary of Trinidadian Oil Company “Centipede Offshore (Guyana) Inc.” Centipede Offshore provides services to ExxonMobil’s Guyana operations.

    The mother of two started off working as a utilities cleaner with the company and was assigned to do laundry. She was given surgical gloves instead of industrial strength gloves to work with. Having received no safety training or instructions, she set out doing her job, not realizing that she was being exposed to harmful chemicals that would adversely affect her for the rest of her life.

    A few weeks into the job, Tanesha’s fingers started to turn greenish-blue. Subsequently, her fingers started swelling and her skin and nails started peeling off. Tanesha continued working until, a few days later, she was unable to move her fingers. Her fingers became so painful that she was unable to open a water bottle. At that point, Tanesha decided to visit the ship’s doctor.

    The ship’s doctor prescribed her some tablets along with a cream to apply on the affected area — which she used as directed. However, the medication was of no help to her. Tanesha’s condition only worsened. The distressed woman subsequently returned to the doctor who then misdiagnosed her with arthritis and told her that she was the only person on board experiencing those symptoms.

    A few days later, Tanesha revisited the doctor who sent her off the ship to seek medical attention in Georgetown. The company informed her that her condition was not work-related and therefore they would not be assisting with any medical expenses.

    The hospital in Georgetown explained to Tanesha that, due to the burns from the chemicals she was exposed to, the cells on her finger were dead and the disability caused by it is permanent. She was terminated by her employer in November, 2020.

    Tanesha then approached the Ministry of Labor which showed little to no interest in representing her, and was of no help at all. She then moved to court and was granted only a measly 1 million Guyana dollars in settlement for injuries that might cause her life-long suffering.

    The Case of the Sleeping Security Guard

    On the 20th of April, 2022, a TSU Constable guarding the home of the advisor to the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Harry Gill, was found sleeping while on duty and a video showing the incident went viral on Facebook. The video, which was allegedly shot by Gill, caused nationwide outcry as it was later revealed that the constable had been on duty for some 20 hours before falling asleep.

    While these two incidents caught the media’s attention, there are countless similar cases that fly under the radar or get swept under the carpet. It is ironic and shameful that Guyanese, a people who aggressively fought against oppression and exploitation, would turn around and do the same to their own. On this Labor Day, we’d like to iterate the glaring fact that developing our human resources and representing the rights of the working class should be a high priority for the Guyana Government.

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