The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  GUYANA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


The Co-operative Republic of Guyana, a member of the 
Commonwealth of Nations and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), 
is a small, multiracial developing nation with a unicameral 
Parliament chosen by direct election in a multiparty political 
system.  Dr. Cheddi Jagan, leader of the party obtaining a 
plurality of seats in Parliament, was sworn in as Executive 
President on October 9, 1992.  The President appoints a Prime 
Minister and other ministers.  There was general agreement 
among international observers that the 1992 elections were free 
and fair.

Security forces are comprised of the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) 
and the Guyana Police Force (GPF).  The latter has primary 
responsibility for maintaining law and order throughout 
Guyana.  The police and security forces are subordinate to the 
civilian government.  Guyanese social and political life is 
strongly influenced by the presence of two main ethnic groups, 
the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese.  Urban Afro-Guyanese 
dominate the opposition People's National Congress (PNC), the 
civil service, and the security forces; Indo-Guyanese 
predominate in the agricultural and business sectors and in the 
ruling People's Progressive Party (PPP).

Guyana's economy depends on agriculture and mining, with sugar, 
rice, bauxite, and gold being the major export earners.  
Despite an estimated growth rate of 8.2 percent in 1993, 
Guyana's per capita gross domestic product was only about $465 
in 1992.  The economy suffers from high external debt, 
shortages of skilled labor, and a deteriorating infrastructure.

Human rights problems in Guyana in 1993 continued to include 
extrajudicial killings by police, and police rape and other 
abuse of detainees and prisoners.  Police generally were able 
to commit these abuses with impunity.  Societal violence 
against women and children, and discrimination against the 
indigenous Amerindians continued.  There were still limitations 
on workers' rights, but political control of union activity 
diminished somewhat.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

No political killings are known to have occurred in recent 

There were credible allegations that police are responsible for 
deliberate, illegal executions.  In most instances, there was a 
failure to investigate and prosecute the responsible police 
officers.  On September 5, two police officers shot and killed 
Ricky Samaroo and Joseph "Dingo" Persaud in Georgetown.  
Persaud had earlier been a witness in a civil case against 
police officers accused of murdering a suspect, Michael Teekah, 
in 1988.  Another witness against police in the same case 
reported that six police officers threatened to kill him and 
Persaud.  Two days after the killings, the police department 
bestowed cash awards on the two policemen responsible for the 
deaths of Persaud and Samaroo.  The police claimed an 
investigation was being conducted but have ignored the Guyana 
Human Rights Association's (GHRA) inquiries into its progress.

On June 4, Frank Wilson was shot and killed at the police 
station where he had worked as a laborer for 12 years.  Police 
claim Wilson committed suicide, but his family believed he was 
murdered.  Authorities ignored the family's calls for an 
investigation into the death.

Seven inmates escaped from the Mazaruni prison in July.  Police 
shot three of the escaped prisoners, killing two, during 
operations to recapture them.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, 
clandestine detentions, or abductions.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Constitution prohibits torture, the GHRA and the 
press reported a rising number of incidents of police brutality.

On occasion, confessions have been thrown out of court on the 
grounds that they were coerced.  There were also credible 
reports of police officers involved in criminal activity, 
including extortion, intimidation, and assault, although the 
number of such charges declined since 1991.  The independent 
newspaper Stabroek News, in an October 19 editorial entitled 
"Business as Usual," stated, "short on skills and resources, 
the cops have maintained their now traditional routine of 
beating and harassment to persuade suspects to talk.  In the 
process, the guilty and the not guilty confess, and these 
'confessions' become the focal point of the vast majority of 
cases at the criminal assizes."

In July a police detective was demoted and transferred from the 
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after being accused of 
brutality.  Also in July, the head of CID, who was also accused 
of brutality, resigned from the police force after being 
transferred to the administrative section.  In August legal 
counsel for five men accused of smuggling cocaine into Guyana 
claimed in court that police beat his clients to gain 
confessions, but he offered no independent evidence to support 
this claim.  Citizens complained that members of the Special 
Police Impact Group beat them with rifle butts for no other 
reason than being out on the streets late at night.

Eleven Angolans who entered Guyana illegally from Brazil were 
detained in police custody for several months while their 
applications for political asylum were considered.  The African 
Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) claimed police beat 
four of the Angolans after they went on a hunger strike.  The 
Commissioner of Police claimed that the four had damaged police 
property by throwing chairs around and "got physical" with 
police while being moved from one location to another.

The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) charged that there is 
a systematic pattern of abuse of Amerindians, particularly 
abuse of Amerindian women by police and soldiers stationed in 
interior communities.  In September the Minister of Home 
Affairs received a report that police in the Orealla Amerindian 
reservation were arresting Amerindian women on false charges 
and sexually assaulting them in the jail.  The APA said that 
all the policemen were transferred out of the reservation but 
complained that no investigation was carried out and no 
criminal charges were filed against any of the policemen.

There is no independent body charged with looking into 
complaints of police brutality or abuse.  The Ombudsman lacks 
the authority to look into allegations of police misconduct.  
Such cases are heard by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).  
The PCA has no power to interview police officers or witnesses, 
must rely on material submitted by the police, and must refer 
cases of alleged abuse to the Commissioner of Police.  
Investigations of such charges are perfunctory and rarely 
result in serious disciplinary action.  Officers charged as a 
result of complaints to the PCA are routinely suspended for a 
few days and sometimes fined but are rarely jailed.  In 
essence, the police force is responsible for investigating 
itself and failed to do so effectively.

Prisons continued to be severely overcrowded.  According to the 
Ombudsman, Guyana had 267 prison inmates per 100,000 population 
in 1992.  The GHRA cited poor diet, inadequate medical 
attention, underpaid and poorly trained staff, and lengthy 
trial delays as problems facing the prison system.  The 
Ombudsman reported receiving 33 complaints from prisoners in 
1992.  Prisoners complained of prison conditions, unreasonable 
charges, mail delays, and censorship.  Suraj Persaud, a teenage 
boy, was beaten to death in Brickdam jail in Georgetown.  The 
GHRA complained to Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis that fellow 
youthful prisoners beat Persaud over a period of several days 
with no attempt by police to intervene.  Lewis did not respond 
to the GHRA complaint.  All letters sent by prisoners to the 
Ombudsman are opened by prison officials.  The GHRA applied to 
have one of its members named to the prison visiting committee 
but received no response from the Government.  The Government 
also failed to appoint a GHRA member to the new prison advisory 
committee charged with recommending ways to reform the prison 
system.  According to the GHRA, all women prisoners in Guyana 
are held in one prison.  The facility's isolated location and 
lack of adequate staff make it difficult for family members to 
visit.  There were credible allegations that female detainees 
were sexually abused by the police.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that no person may be deprived of 
personal liberty except as authorized by law and requires 
judicial determination of the legality of detention, a mandate 
that was generally respected in practice in 1993.

Arrest does not require a warrant issued by a court official, 
only an assessment of guilt by the police officer.  The law 
requires that a person arrested and held for more than 24 hours 
be brought before a court to be charged.  Chief Magistrate K. 
Juman Yassin publicly complained that suspects are often 
detained for more than 24 hours but never charged.  Bail is 
generally available except in capital cases.  In narcotics 
cases, magistrates have some discretion in granting bail before 
trial but must send all persons convicted on narcotics charges 
to custody, even if an appeal is pending.

Exile is not practiced.  

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trail

The Constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal 
offense has the right to a hearing by a court of law, and this 
right is respected in practice.  Guyana has a functioning bail 
system.  Defendants are granted public trials, and appeal may 
be made to higher courts.

There are no political prisoners or special courts for 
political security cases.  Several persons charged in an 
alleged coup plot, held since 1990, were released from custody 
without trial in 1993.

In the past, some members of the opposition to the previous PNC 
governments expressed concern over court rulings in libel suits 
brought by government officials as well as other governmental 
use of the courts to harass political opponents.  The judiciary 
now exerts greater independence due to the freer political 
atmosphere which has developed in the country since 1985.  The 
present Government made no attempt to use the courts to 
intimidate the opposition.

Delays in judicial proceedings are often caused by shortages of 
trained court administrative personnel and magistrates, 
inadequate resources, low salary levels, and the slowness of 
police in getting cases ready for trial.  The inefficiency of 
the judicial system is so great as to undermine due process.  
Prisoners are often detained 3 or 4 years awaiting trial.  
Appeals of some murder cases have been delayed for several 
years.  Postponements are routinely granted to both the defense 
and the prosecution.  In a recent session of the Court of 
Appeals, eight criminal appeals were dismissed for lack of 
prosecution.  The defendants had served their full sentences 
(3 years on the average) and had been released from prison 
before the appeal could be heard.  The Chief Magistrate 
reported that it is not uncommon for defendants to be 
incarcerated for 2 to 3 years pending trial.

Although the laws of Guyana recognize the right to legal 
counsel, in practice, with the exception of capital crimes, it 
has been limited to those who can afford to pay.  A small 
groups of lawyers is working to begin a Legal Aid clinic.  The 
Government has provided a small cash grant for the clinic as 
well as the services of a lawyer from the Attorney General's 
office.  The clinic is expected to open early in 1994 after the 
Government provides office space.  Due to resource constraints, 
the clinic initially will limit its activities to certain types 
of civil cases in Georgetown.  Apart from these efforts, 
virtually no lawyers work pro bono in criminal cases.  
Defendants in murder cases are assigned an attorney by the 
court.  The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers provides free 
legal services for civil cases only.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Government generally respects the right to privacy, 
although some politicians claimed instances of surveillance by 
the previous PNC government of political meetings and rallies.  
(Uniformed police officers routinely monitor such rallies.)  
The laws requiring judicially issued warrants for searches were 
generally respected in 1993.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitutional provision for freedom of speech is generally 
respected, and Guyanese freely criticize their government and 
its policies.  The Government generally ignored often savage ad 
hominem attacks on President Jagan and his Government by the 
opposition PNC newspaper New Nation.  However, a businessman 
was pressured by a government official to withdraw advertising 
from the paper, and there were credible charges that foreign 
investors were pressured to cancel contracts with consultants 
who were former PNC government officials.  President Jagan and 
members of his Government criticized the independent daily 
newspaper Stabroek News for what they considered unfair and 
inaccurate reporting but took no action against the paper.

The government-owned Guyana Television and the two radio 
stations controlled by the government-owned Guyana Broadcasting 
Corporation offer relatively evenhanded reporting of local 
events.  Guyana has no private radio stations but does have six 
private television stations in Georgetown, and several more in 
outlying towns.  Two of the private television stations offer 
frequent public affairs programming which is often critical of 
the Government, and they began to produce Guyana's first 
independent newscasts in 1993.

In past years, the Government exercised varying degrees of 
control over the media through ownership of what had been the 
country's only daily newspaper (the Guyana Chronicle), the 
communications agency, the two radio stations, and the issuance 
of import licenses for newsprint and printing presses.  The 
Minister of Information stated that the Government will not 
privatize the state-owned media, but the Government's role in 
the media nonetheless declined greatly due to the increased 
availability of other newspapers and the rapid growth of 
television.  In 1993 the independent Stabroek News expanded 
publication to seven times a week and added a weekly regional 
edition.  Independent and opposition newspapers frequently 
criticize the Government in editorials and satirize it in 

There were no restrictions on academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Public Order Act requires police permits for mass political 
meetings.  The Police Commissioner has the authority to refuse 
permission for a public meeting at his discretion and without 
explanation.  There was no evidence that he used this authority 
for political purposes in 1993.  Political parties and other 
groups held public meetings and rallies throughout the country 
without hindrance.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Guyanese practice a wide variety of religions, the major faiths 
being Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.  The Constitution 
provides for freedom of religion, and members of all faiths are 
allowed to worship freely.  There are no restrictions on 
foreign religious groups proselytizing in Guyana.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within 
Guyana.  Travel to Amerindian areas requires government 
permission, the result of a law dating from colonial times 
designed to protect the indigenous peoples from exploitation.  
Prior to the 1992 elections, the GHRA, opposition politicians, 
and some clergy contended that permits were sometimes denied to 
missionaries and non-PNC politicians, and that the regulations 
were used to maintain PNC influence among the Amerindians.  In 
practice, however, most people travel throughout these areas 
without regard to the formality of a permit.  Guyanese are free 
to travel abroad, to emigrate, and to return.

Guyana did not generate political refugees in 1993.  Eleven 
Angolans and one or two other Africans who entered Guyana from 
Brazil applied for political asylum.  On the advice of the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, most of the 
applications were ultimately approved.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Guyana has a unicameral Parliament which is chosen by direct 
election in a multiparty political system based on proportional 
representation.  The leader of the party which obtains a 
plurality of seats in Parliament during national elections is 
sworn in as Executive President.  The President appoints a 
Cabinet, headed by a Prime Minister, which together with the 
President exercises executive power.

Guyanese are free to join or support political parties of their 
choice.  The 1992 general election, considered free and fair if 
not entirely unflawed by foreign observers, brought the major 
opposition party to power while turning the then governing 
party into the main opposition.  Despite constitutional 
provisions, elections were still not held on schedule or in a 
consistent manner.  The general election was delayed from 1990 
to October 1992; municipal elections, scheduled for December 
1992, had not been held by the end of 1993.

No progress was made on reforming or replacing the 
Constitution, which grants an inordinate amount of power to the 
President.  Constitutional reform requires a two-thirds 
majority in Parliament, which could only be achieved through 
the cooperation of the ruling party and the opposition.  Only 
one constitutional amendment was proposed during the 1993 
parliamentary session, to change the composition of the 
National Elections Commission, and this was eventually agreed 
to after extended negotiations among the four parties 
represented in Parliament.

There are no legal impediments to women or minorities 
participating in the political process, but historically 
neither women nor Amerindians were encouraged to participate, 
other than by voting.  Any Guyanese citizen 18 years or older 
can register to vote, and about 80 percent of those registered 
cast votes in the 1992 election.  President Jagan's Cabinet 
includes two women, two persons of Portuguese descent, one of 
Chinese origin, eight of East Indian extraction, four 
Afro-Guyanese, and one Amerindian.  The new 65-member 
Parliament includes 13 women and 8 Amerindians, representing 
both major parties.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Guyana Human Rights Association, the most active local 
human rights group, functioned without government interference 
in 1993.  The GHRA is a nongovernmental organization formed in 
1979 with the participation of trade unions, professional 
organizations, various ethnic groups, and churches.  It issues 
periodic press releases and publishes an annual report on human 
rights in Guyana.  The Government made no public statements in 
response to either GHRA or foreign human rights reports.  The 
GHRA received no threats in 1993.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


In principle, the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the 
basis of sex and commits the Government to ensure equal pay for 
equal work.  However, a 1988 government-sponsored 
constitutional amendment rendered the equal pay provision 
unenforceable except in cases in which equal pay for equal work 
is provided for by specific statute.  No such statutes have 
been enacted.

The 1990 Equal Rights Act was meant to end sex discrimination, 
but the failure to include a specific definition of 
discrimination rendered the Act unenforceable.  There is no 
legal protection against widespread sexual harassment in the 
workplace, and dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy is common 
and not illegal.

Other legislation passed by the Parliament in 1990 protects 
women's property rights under common law marriage, entitling a 
woman who separates or divorces to one-half of the couple's 
property if she had been working and one-third of the property 
if she had been a housewife.  However, divorce by consent 
remains illegal, and there are unequal provisions regarding 
adultery as grounds for divorce.  The legislation also gave 
authority to the courts to overturn a man's will in the event 
it did not provide for the wife.

Violence against women and children, including domestic 
violence, is a significant problem.  Wife beating, rape, and 
incest are common, but lawyers say their clients very rarely 
report such crimes to the authorities.  Victims of such abuse 
who do seek redress from the police and the courts often suffer 
social retribution and additional harassment from the 
authorities charged with pursuing their claims.  Because of 
their economic circumstances and the lack of any family 
shelters or other place of solace, victims of domestic violence 
are often trapped in their homes with their abusers.  The 
National Women's Rights Campaign (NWRC) presented a draft bill 
on domestic violence to the Government in September which the 
Ministry of Labour, Human Services, and Social Security 
promised to table in Parliament in 1994.

There are few organizations, other than those sponsored by 
political parties, that focus primarily on women's rights.  Two 
exceptions are the Guyana chapter of the Caribbean Association 
for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) and the NWRC which 
opened a counseling center for victims of violent relationships 
in early 1993.  


A 1992 U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) report on children and 
women in Guyana stated that "the rights of children and women 
to survival and development, to protection, and to participation
have not been adequately met."  An estimated 65 to 86 percent 
of the population of Guyana lives in poverty, and children are 
more severely affected than any other group.  The severe 
deterioration of the public education and health care systems 
has stunted children's futures and often cut short their 
lives.  For many children, health care has become unaffordable.
Children are often denied access to education because their 
families cannot afford school fees, or because their families 
need the children to contribute to running the household by 
working or providing child care for other children.

The worst effects on children's lives come from migration.  
Over 3 percent of Guyana's population emigrates every year in 
search of a brighter economic future.  As parents migrate they 
often leave behind their children to be raised by other family 
members, friends, or by other children.  Nearly 1 percent of 
Guyana's households are headed by children under the age of 14.

The administration of justice for children is characterized by 
a punitive legal system which does not take into account the 
needs of children fleeing sexual, physical, or emotional 
abuse.  The 1992 UNICEF report stated that the "human rights of 
children in institutions are essentially violated....Children 
are being detained in inhospitable prison conditions for as 
much as 6 months without trial and without being allowed to go 
to school.  Children have been picked up from the streets and 
detained in an institution without being taken to court and 
without the consent of their families.  Within both public and 
private institutions children report being beaten and sexually 
and emotionally molested."

First Lady Janet Jagan and several ministers of government are 
strongly committed to children's human rights and welfare.  In 
July the National Committee for the Survival, Protection, and 
Development of Children held its first meeting, chaired by Mrs. 
Jagan.  The Committee is drafting a national program for action 
on children, but the Government's ability to improve the 
situation of children will be severely constrained by the lack 
of resources available to the State.

     Indigenous People

Guyana has a small indigenous Amerindian population, composed 
of nine tribal groups, most living in reservations and villages 
in remote parts of the interior.  Their standard of living is 
much lower than that of most Guyanese, and their ability to 
participate in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, 
traditions, and the allocation of natural resources is 
virtually nil.

Amerindian life is regulated by the Amerindian Act, legislation 
dating from colonial times designed to protect the indigenous 
peoples from exploitation.  The Act gives the Government the 
power to determine who is an Amerindian and what is an 
Amerindian community.  Additionally, the Act gives the 
Government the power to appoint Amerindian leaders and to 
cancel or annul any decisions made by Amerindian councils.  
Both individuals and Amerindian groups remain free to criticize 
the Government.  Although many actively and openly oppose 
government policies, their influence on government policy was 
negligible.  The Amerindian Act also prohibits the sale of 
alcohol to Amerindians and requires government permission 
before any Amerindian can accept formal employment.  In 
December Parliament approved a motion to "appoint a Special 
Select Committee to study the Amerindian Act and to make 
recommendations for its revision along democratic lines to 
enlarge the self-determination of Amerindians."  The motion 
passed with the unanimous support of all four parties 
represented in Parliament.  

In 1992 the Government distributed land titles to some 
Amerindian communities.  The APA charged that the titles were 
distributed just before the elections in an attempt to win 
votes and criticized the allocations because they were smaller 
than recommended by the Government Lands Commission in 1968 and 
did not include mineral rights.

The Government still holds title to 90 percent of the land 
claimed by Amerindians and, through the Amerindian Act, retains 
the ability to repossess the land titles already distributed if 
it determines that it is in the Amerindians' interest.  Several 
large leases and concessions were granted, allowing mining and 
timber companies to operate on traditional Amerindian lands, 
often under contracts and terms never made public.  Amerindians 
displaced by timber and mining operations in such cases have no 
legal recourse.

In 1993 the foreign-owned Barama company began timber 
operations on 4.2 million acres of primary tropical forest 
where five Amerindian communities are located.  Of the 1,200 
Amerindians living within the Barama concession, only 550 live 
in government-recognized Amerindian villages.  The rest are 
scattered along the rivers and have no legal protection for 
their homesteads.  The APA claimed that the traditional 
hunting, fishing, and farming lands of the Amerindian 
communities are being destroyed and that nine families living 
inside the Barama concession have been removed from their 
land.  The APA also claimed that Barama was denying Amerindians 
access to their traditional forest paths and waterways within 
the Barama concession.  Barama officials denied these claims, 
saying that a total of four families relocated voluntarily to 
new housing built at Barama's expense.  Barama further claimed 
that it respected the boundaries of Amerindian communities and 
that environmental damage in these areas was often caused by 
gold miners operating without supervision in the region.  

In late 1992, the new Government appointed an Amerindian to the 
new position of Minister of Amerindian Affairs.  The Minister 
considers himself a liaison between Amerindians and the 
Government.  However, as a junior minister in the Ministry of 
Public Works, Communications, and Regional Development, he has 
no staff and no separate budget.  The APA and the Guyanese 
Organization of Indigenous Peoples complained that he is 
consequently ineffective in the position.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution provides fundamental rights for all persons in 
Guyana regardless of race, sex, religion, or national origin.  
Guyanese society and political life continue to be influenced 
by longstanding ethnic tensions, primarily between Guyanese of 
African and East Indian descent.  The civil service and defense 
and police forces are overwhelmingly staffed by Afro-Guyanese.  
This is largely the result of historical circumstances and does 
not reflect a deliberate policy of the present Government.  
Recruitment efforts targeted at Indo-Guyanese candidates for 
the uniformed services generally have met with an 
unenthusiastic response, with most qualified Indo-Guyanese 
candidates opting for a business or professional career over 
military, police, or public service.

     People with Disabilities

Guyana has several special schools and training centers for the 
disabled, but like the rest of the educational system these are 
understaffed and in severe disrepair.  The disabled generally 
are considered unemployable because of the lack of appropriate 
infrastructure to provide accessibility in both public and 
private facilities.  There is no law mandating provision of 
access for people with disabilities.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of association is provided for in the Constitution, 
which specifically enumerates a worker's right to "form or 
belong to trade unions."  Employers are not required by law to 
recognize a union in the workplace, even if a large majority of 
workers have indicated their desire to be represented by a 
union.  The Minister of Labour sent a new trade union 
recognition bill to the Attorney General for comment, but it 
had not been laid before Parliament by the end of the year.

Most union members work in the public sector and in state-owned 
enterprises, although in 1993 unions gained recognition in 
several of Guyana's newly privatized industries.  Organized 
labor in Guyana freely associates in one major national 
federation, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (TUC), composed of 
22 unions.  From 1988 to 1993, six unions suspended their 
involvement in the TUC and formed the Federation of Independent 
Trades Unions of Guyana (FITUG) to protest longstanding 
political control of the TUC by the PNC.  After long 
negotiations with the FITUG unions, the TUC adopted democratic 
reforms to its constitution in February 1993.  The FITUG unions 
returned to the TUC at a special conference in September during 
which a FITUG member was elected president in the TUC's first 
free elections since the mid-1970s.

There is a tradition of close ties between Guyana's trade union 
movement and political parties, particularly the PNC which 
controlled the Government (and thus public sector employment) 
for 28 years until 1992.  Historically, the two major political 
parties wielded significant influence over the leadership of a 
number of unions, and trade union officials often served in 
dual roles as party officials.  President Cheddi Jagan is on 
leave as honorary president of Guyana's largest union, the 
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers' Union, and former 
President Hoyte is president general of the Guyana Labour 
Union.  Several other unions in the TUC are formally affiliated 
with the PNC, and several FITUG unions have close ties with 
other political parties.

Workers have a generally recognized right to strike, but public 
employees providing essential services are normally forbidden 
to strike (a procedure exists for the review of their 
grievances by a tribunal appointed by the Minister of Labour).  
When four public sector unions called a "work to rule" by 
government employees to protest delays in wage negotiations, 
President Jagan said, "they have a right to strike, but they 
must strike responsibly."  Unions representing the water works, 
the state-owned radio stations, and the telephone company 
called short strikes or "work to rule" actions.  In October the 
union representing workers at the state-owned electricity 
company called a strike which lasted 7 days after the Prime 
Minister forbade management from signing a wage agreement that 
had been negotiated with the union.

Unions representing workers in the sugar, bauxite, timber, and 
seafood industries also staged short strikes.  Most of these 
strikes were called to support negotiations for higher wages or 
better working conditions, although a significant number of 
strikes were the result of interunion recognition battles.  
Labor disputes are frequently settled through consultation and 
dialog without resorting to strikes or other industrial 
action.  Unions and their federations freely maintain relations 
with recognized Caribbean and international trade union and 
professional groups.  All three of the major international 
labor federations have affiliates in Guyana.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Public and private sector employees possess and utilize the 
generally accepted right to organize and to bargain 
collectively.  The Ministry of Labour certifies all collective 
bargaining agreements and has never refused to do so.  This 
right is not codified, however, and employers are not legally 
required to recognize unions or bargain with them.  For two 
decades the TUC's traditional ties (through PNC-affiliated 
unions) to the former PNC-controlled government limited the 
unions' ability to negotiate effectively on behalf of workers 
in both the private and public sectors.

In 1993 the new Government repealed a regulation requiring the 
Government and all public corporations to engage in collective 
bargaining only with the TUC and not with individual unions.  
The result of that regulation had been that salaries and 
working conditions in the Government and public sector 
enterprises were dictated by the Government.  However, unions 
complained about a new regulation that all wage settlements 
with the Government or public corporations had to be approved 
by the Ministry of Finance.

The Chief Labour Officer and the staff of the Ministry of 
Labour provide consultation, enforcement, and conciliation 
services.  In 1993, 47 collective bargaining agreements were 
concluded and certified by the Ministry of Labour, up from 26 
the year before.  The Ministry has a backlog of cases, and 
insufficient manpower and transportation severely limit the 
Ministry's ability to carry out its functions.

The Ministry of Labour documented no cases of antiunion 
discrimination during 1993.  However, union leaders make 
credible charges that workers attempting to unionize workplaces 
are harassed and intimidated and that the Ministry does not 
expeditiously investigate complaints that employers are 
dismissing workers when confronted with union organizing 
efforts.  A foreign-owned timber company fired workers who went 
on strike to protest supposed delays by the Ministry of Labour 
in holding a recognition poll between rival PNC and PPP unions, 
but the company later rehired all employees who returned to 
work.  There is no legal mechanism to require employers found 
guilty of antiunion discrimination to rehire employees fired 
for union activities.

Guyana has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and 
there is no indication that it exists.

     d.  Minimum Age of Employment of Children

Minimum age laws are set out in the Factories Act and the 
Employment of Young Persons and Children Act.  Legally, no 
person under 14 years of age may be employed in any industrial 
undertaking, and no person under 16 may be employed at night, 
except under regulated circumstances.  The terms "industry" and 
"factory" as used in the law have been interpreted by the 
Ministry of Labour to encompass nearly all workplaces except 
offices and retail shops.  According to the law, children under 
age 14 may be employed only in enterprises in which members of 
the same family are employed.  The local economic situation has 
forced more and more young children into the work force, 
however, and it is common throughout the country to see very 
young children engaged in street trading.  While cognizant of 
the situation, the Ministry of Labour does not employ 
sufficient inspectors to enforce existing laws effectively.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government establishes a public sector minimum wage which 
was $1.35 per day as of July 1, 1993.  The Labour Act and the 
Wages Councils Act allow the Labour Ministry to set minimum 
wages for various categories of private employers.  In November 
official minimum wages were raised by over 400 percent; the 
minimum wage for unskilled workers was set at $0.17 per hour.  
Both the legal minimum wage for the private sector and the 
public sector minimum wage are currently insufficient to 
provide a decent standard of living for a family.

Hours of employment are set under the Shops Act and the 
Factories Act and vary by industry and sector.  In general, 
work in excess of an 8-hour day and a 44-hour week requires 
payment of an overtime rate.  The law does not provide for at 
least one 24-hour rest period.

The Factories Act sets forth workplace safety and health 
standards.  The Occupational Health and Safety Division of the 
Ministry of Labour is charged with conducting factory 
inspections and investigating complaints of substandard 
workplace and conditions.  As with its other responsibilities, 
inadequate resources prevented the Ministry from effectively 
carrying out this function.  Workers cannot remove themselves 
from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued 

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.