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, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


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 
with a plurality of seats in Parliament, is Executive President.  The 
President appoints a Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers.  Local 
and international observers generally agreed that the 1992 general 
elections were free and fair.

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) 
comprise the security forces, which are subordinate to the civilian 
government.  The GDF is a small, professional military organization of 
less than 2,000 uniformed personnel which has only a limited role in law 
enforcement.  The GPF has primary responsibility for maintaining law and 
order throughout Guyana.  The GPF has historically been underpaid and 
undertrained.  There have been allegations of GPF abuse of authority and 
excessive use of force.

The economy depends on agriculture, fisheries, forestry and mining, with 
sugar, rice, bauxite, and gold the major export earners.  The estimated 
growth rate for 1995 is 6.3 percent, with per capita gross domestic 
product estimated at $632.  The economy suffers from high external debt, 
shortages of skilled labor, and a deteriorating infrastructure.

Human rights problems continued to include police abuse of detainees and 
prisoners, allegations of extrajudicial killings, severe delays in the 
inefficient judicial system, poor prison conditions, societal violence 
against women and children, and discrimination against women and 
indigenous Amerindians.  The authorities improved police training; 
however, police abuses were often committed with impunity, and the 
Police Complaints Authority was largely ineffective because it lacks 
independent power.  There are still some limitations on worker rights, 
but political control of union activity continued to diminish.


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

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.

There were allegations that police killed criminal suspects under 
questionable circumstances.  Police authorities state that such cases 
are investigated and that those policemen who act unlawfully are 
dismissed or prosecuted.  However, critics claim the authorities do not 
sufficiently investigate and prosecute the police officers responsible.

In March the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) called for the 
establishment of a commission of inquiry on police use of force and 
brutality, because of what it described as several "disturbing 
tendencies":  a sense of impunity from prosecution (for brutality, 
drugs, and other corruption); an unwillingness to prosecute police for 
criminal offenses; use of deadly force against alleged criminal 
suspects; and failure of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to 
respond adequately to grievances against the police.  The GHRA and local 
press reports highlighted a number of cases.

In February Amnesty International reported a case of police brutality 
and ill treatment against residents of Cane Grove during a police 
antinarcotics campaign in June 1994.  Police allegedly beat Zabeeda 
Hussein in her home when she attempted to protect her crippled husband 
from a beating.  She later claimed that they hit her in the stomach, 
causing a miscarriage of pregnancy.  Rohan Sing, who also claimed police 
beat him, was seen covered in blood while in police custody.  Amnesty 
International also raised the case of Shivnarine and Ramchen Dalchand, 
whom police allegedly beat and arrested in August 1994.  Four days 
later, Shivnarine Dalchand drowned while attempting to escape from a 
police boat, according to police.  Autopsy reports later revealed that 
there was no water in his lungs and that his body showed 13 external and 
4 internal injuries.  A government pathologist ruled that Dalchand died 
of "pulmonary edema."  The Director of Public Prosecution investigated 
the case and referred it to the coroner for an inquest.  A report of the 
results of the coroner's inquest has not been released.

In June police killed ex-soldier and career criminal Wayne Bancroft.  
Bancroft served 3 years in the Mazaruni Prison from 1992.  He required 
hospitalization three times while in prison due to alleged beatings.  He 
claimed that after his release police frequently harassed and fired 
shots at him.  He fled to French Guiana in January but was deported in 
February.  Upon his return to Guyana, he was arrested and held for 
several days.  He claimed that police extorted $10,000 from him to avoid 
further arrests.  On June 1, police chased Bancroft, whom eyewitnesses 
claim voluntarily came out of the building in which he took refuge with 
his hands raised to surrender to the police.  Police shot Bancroft; upon 
arrival at the hospital where he was pronounced dead, officers claimed 
he was "Michael Craig," a wanted criminal.  Although witnesses reported 
that Bancroft was unarmed, the police said he was a wanted suspect who 
was fatally shot while advancing toward them with a knife in his hand 
after his partner fired shots at policemen.

In July police shot Orin Garraway in the head after a chase in a 
Georgetown neighborhood and took him to the hospital in critical 
condition.  He was allegedly a wanted criminal and a friend of Wayne 
Bancroft.  According to police, he ran when challenged by a police 
patrol.  Police pursued him and during a confrontation and scuffle, 
police shot him when he pulled a gun and threatened one of the 
policemen.  However, according to a number of reported eyewitness 
accounts, Garraway ran from officers who had weapons drawn, and was shot 
in the head at point blank range after he had fallen during the chase.  
A police investigation was conducted and resulted in a declaration that 
Garraway was shot after he drew his firearm.  The Director of Public 
Prosecution called for an inquest, but by year's end it had not begun.

In August police shot and killed Simon Joseph, a fish vendor.  He was 
not a suspect wanted by the police.  The Working Peoples' Alliance (WPA) 
alleged that he was socializing with friends in a yard between 2:00 a.m. 
and 3:00 a.m. when police officers accosted him.  Witnesses claim that 
when he questioned the police order to come with them, he was shot in 
the back and died later at the Georgetown Hospital.  This case is under 
investigation by the police.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

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

In August after a cyanide-polluted flow from a major gold mining 
operation spilled into the river Essequibo, police used  excessive force 
to break up a protest demonstration around the Parliament building.  Two 
women associated with the Working People's Alliance were allegedly 
assaulted by the police.  Dow, a former elections commissioner, claimed 
that police roughed her up, kicked her, and threw her into the back seat 
of their vehicle.  She alleged that later they threw her from the car to 
the pavement.  De Souza claimed that she was nearly run over by a police 
vehicle and otherwise intimidated by officers.  The WPA threatened to 
file a lawsuit against the police, but on November 24 charges against De 
Souza were dropped and the matter settled without litigation.

In September the local press reported that Chief Magistrate K. Juman 
Yassin ordered a drug prisoner--Wilfred Scipio--taken to a doctor and a 
medical certificate produced.  Scipio alleged that police severely beat 
him which caused a severed vein and serious bleeding.  He said that he 
received no medical attention and was forced to sleep on a bare concrete 
floor for 8 days after his arrest prior to his appearance in court.  
When asked by the magistrate why he had not been brought to court 

earlier, Scipio said that he was too sick to move; the police, however, 
countered that their investigation was not complete.  The magistrate 
ordered a change of police detention facilities after Scipio expressed 
fear of returning to his former place of custody.

Some confessions have been thrown out of court on the grounds that they 
were coerced.  Chief Justice Cecil Kennard, at a conference of 
magistrates in September, expressed his concern that police prosecutors 
depend too heavily on the confessions of defendants in court 
proceedings.  He felt that in many cases, confessions are not always 
good evidence of guilt.  He cautioned magistrates that they must ensure 
that they are fully satisfied that confessions presented to them for 
evidence in trials were free and voluntary and not forced via 
intimidation or other means.  Such statements, he said, should not 
automatically be admitted as evidence in criminal trials.

There were continuing reports of police officers' involvement in 
criminal activity, including extortion, intimidation, and assault, 
although the number of reports of such charges continue to decline.

Citizens complained that members of the special police impact group 
engage in intimidation and rough physical treatment of detainees and 
suspects.  In June Dr. Hughley Hanoman, (a ruling party member of 
Parliament) alleged that impact patrol police "manhandled" him, threw 
him into a police van, threatened him with incarceration at a local 
lock-up, refused him a phone call to his lawyer, insulted him with 
racial slurs, and generally intimidated him.  The impact officers took 
him to jail and later released him on $3,000 bail, after intervention by 
the acting police commissioner.  Dr. Hanoman was not charged with a 
crime, and afterward reportedly said that he now understood the 
accusations of police harassment and abuse of power.

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; however, the PCA has no power to interview 
police officers or witnesses and must rely on material submitted by the 
police.  The PCA refers cases of alleged abuse to the Police 
Commissioner.  Investigations of such charges appear to be 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.

Some of Guyana's prisons continue to be severely overcrowded.  The GHRA 
reported that there were over 900 prisoners in a space originally 
intended for 300 (later upgraded to accommodate 553) at the Camp Street 
prison in Georgetown.  Corrections authorities admit that the average 
population at Camp Street prison has been about 806 prisoners.  Prisons 
officials claim that Camp Street is the only prison that is 
overpopulated.  After a prison break in October at Lusignan, when scores 
of prisoners escaped into surrounding communities, the GHRA claimed that 
the number at that prison was excessive as well.

The severe overcrowding at Camp Street prison is blamed on the law 
courts and recent sentencing guidelines that require mandatory prison 
sentences of 3 to 5 years for narcotics possession.  Most of the 
prisoners were convicted on narcotics charges involving small amounts of 

The GHRA cited poor diet, inadequate medical attention, underpaid and 
poorly trained staff, and lengthy trial delays as problems facing the 
prison system.  Local press sources report that due to overcrowding, 
tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and 
other health problems are rising, posing serious public health risks for 
inmates when they are freed and return to their communities.  
Additionally, due to restricted budgets and other limitations, the large 
influx of prisoners in recent periods reduces efforts directed at 
rehabilitation and training.

Groups concerned with prison conditions report there is often poor 
sanitation and inadequate access to proper medical care, particularly at 
police station holding facilities.  The East La Penitence police 
station, where women prisoners are held until sentencing, is below 
standard compared to other prisons in the country.  Intended as a 
temporary holding place before sentencing prisoners, the station has 
become a long-term home for many women whose cases are held up in the 
overburdened judicial system.  The Government did appoint a GHRA member 
to the prison visiting committee.

As another example, the Brickdam police station holding facility, a 
temporary detention center for about 50 male prisoners, is overcrowded, 
damp, dimly lit, and foul smelling.  It has 14 cells about 5- by 8-feet 
in area, no beds, no wash basins, no furniture and no utensils.  Each 
cell has up to five persons, but no toilets; inmates must be escorted by 
staff members outside of the cells to use holes in the floor for 
toilets.  Inmates sleep on the bare concrete floor, damp with urine and 

  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 

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 limited 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 Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which is 
generally the case in practice.  The local court system is composed of a 
High (Supreme) Court, a national Court of Appeals, and a system of 
magistrate courts which have branches in the various regions and 
departments of the country.  Magistrates are members of the civil 
service and are trained lawyers.  The magistrate courts deal with both 
criminal and civil matters.  The Ministry of Legal Affairs headed by the 
Attorney General represents the State and plays the role of state 
prosecutor.  It also supervises the Office of the Director of Public 

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 

In the past, some members of the opposition to the previous People's 
National Congress (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 

Delays in judicial proceedings are often caused by shortages of trained 
court administrative personnel and magistrates, inadequate resources, 
low salaries, and the slowness of police in preparing cases 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.  Trial 
postponements are routinely granted to both the defense and the 

Although the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, in practice, 
with the exception of capital crimes, it has been limited to those who 
can afford to pay.  An alternative surfaced in March 1994 with the new 
legal aid clinic.  The Government provided a small cash grant for the 
clinic as well as the services of a lawyer from the Attorney General's 
office.  Initially, due to budget constraints, the clinic limited its 
activities to civil cases in Georgetown.  As the clinic has become more 
widely used, and another attorney was added to the staff, criminal cases 
related to the civil cases (assault as part of a divorce case for 
example) have been pursued.  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.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Government generally respects the right to privacy.  The laws 
requiring judicially issued warrants for searches were generally 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitutional provision for freedom of speech is generally 
respected, and citizens may freely criticize their government and its 

As in 1993, there were credible charges that high government officials 
pressured foreign investors to cancel contracts with a consultant who 
was a former PNC government official.  On another occasion, there were 
credible charges that a government official restricted freedom of speech 
and freedom of the press by intervening in the employment contract of a 
local businessman who does editorial commentary on a news program which 
is sometimes critical of the Government.  Government officials pressured 
a foreign investor to force its consultant to stop editorializing on the 
news and in any other public forum, or to cancel the contract.

The independent Stabroek News continued to publish seven times a week 
with one weekly regional edition.  Independent and opposition newspapers 
frequently criticized the Government in editorials and satirized it in 

The government-owned Guyana Broadcasting Corporation operates Guyana 
Television and one radio station (with two separate programs), which 
provide relatively evenhanded reporting on local events.  Guyana has no 
private radio stations, but does have eight private television stations 
in Georgetown and four in outlying areas.  Two of the private stations 
produce newscasts which are often critical of the Government, and a 
third produces general public affairs programming which addresses issues 
of local interest and is considered to be more favorable to the 

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 radio 
station, and the issuance of import licenses for newsprint and printing 
presses.  The Government's role in the media has since declined with the 
proliferation of television stations, lack of a Minister of Information, 
and the existence of an independent daily newspaper.

  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.  Political parties and other groups held public 
meetings and rallies throughout the country without hindrance.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  Members of all faiths are allowed to 
worship freely.  Guyanese practice a wide variety of religions, the 
major faiths being Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.  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 people 
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.  Citizens are free to travel abroad, to emigrate, 
and to return.

The Government does not have any fixed policy on refugee or asylum 
applications.  There were no reports of forced expulsion of anyone 
having a valid claim to refugee status; however, government policy 
remains undefined.

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.

Citizens are free to join or support political parties of their choice.  
The 1992 general election, considered free and fair by foreign 
observers, brought the major opposition party to power.  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, were 
delayed until October 1994.  Any citizen 18 years or older can register 
to vote, and about 80 percent of those registered cast votes in the 1992 

No progress was made on reforming or replacing the Constitution, which 
grants extensive powers to the President.  Constitutional reform 
requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which can only be achieved 
through the cooperation of the ruling party and the opposition.

There are no legal impediments to participation of women or minorities 
in the political process, but historically neither women nor Amerindians 
were encouraged to participate, other than by voting.  The Cabinet 
includes three women, two persons of Portuguese descent, one of Chinese 
origin, nine of East Indian extraction, four Afro-Guyanese, and one 
Amerindian.  The 73-member Parliament includes 11 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.  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.

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

Although the Constitution provides fundamental rights for all persons 
regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin, the Government 
does not always observe this in practice.


Violence against women, including domestic violence, is a significant 
problem.  Wife beating, rape, and incest are common.  Lawyers said that 
more victims are reporting these crimes to the authorities although 
there is still a social stigma attached to it.  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 complaints.  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.  
A women's organization has begun a crisis hotline and is in the process 
of refurbishing an existing building to be used as a shelter for women 
suffering physical abuse.

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.  In December 1994, credible charges 
of sexual harassment were brought against a prominent businessman.  The 
case was dismissed and the perpetrator fined one Guyanese dollar in 

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 

Other legislation passed by 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.

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 and the National Women's Rights Campaign, which opened a 
counseling center for victims of violent relationships in early 1993.


An estimated 65 to 86 percent of the population 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 

The worst effects on children's lives come from migration.  More than 3 
percent of the 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.

Media reports of rape and incest have increased, indicating that 
violence against children is a significant and reoccurring problem.  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.

A committee headed by First Lady Janet Jagan and several Government 
Ministers drafted a national program for action on children, but the 
Government's ability to improve the lot of children suffering sexual, 
physical, or emotional abuse depends on budgetary considerations.

  People With Disabilities

The lack of appropriate infrastructure to provide access to both public 
and private facilities makes it very difficult to employ the disabled 
outside their homes.  There is no law mandating provision of access for 
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.

  Indigenous People

Guyana has a small 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 

Amerindian life is regulated by the Amerindian Act, legislation dating 
from colonial times designed to protect indigenous people from 
exploitation.  The Act gives the Government the power to determine who 
is an Amerindian and what is an Amerindian community, to appoint 
Amerindian leaders, and to annul decisions made by Amerindian councils.  
It also prohibits the sale of alcohol to Amerindians and requires 
government permission before any Amerindian can accept formal 
employment, though these provisions generally are not enforced.  Both 
individuals and Amerindian groups remain free to criticize the 

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Longstanding ethnic tensions, primarily between Guyanese of African and 
East Indian descent, continued to influence Guyanese society and 
political life.  The civil service and defense and police forces are 
overwhelmingly staffed by Afro-Guyanese.  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.  The chief of staff of the Guyana Defence 
Force is Indo-Guyanese and there are other Indo-Guyanese officers in 
both the GDF and the police force.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of association and specifically 
enumerates a worker's right to "form or belong to trade unions."  The 
law does not require employers to recognize a union in the workplace, 
even if a large majority of workers have indicated their desire to be 
represented by a union.

Most union members work in the public sector and in state-owned 
enterprises.  Organized labor freely associates in one major national 
federation, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (TUC) which is composed of 
22 unions.  There is a tradition of close ties between the trade union 
movement and political parties.

Historically, the two major political parties wielded significant 
influence over the leadership of several unions, and trade union 
officials often served in dual roles as party officials.  Although this 
still occurs, it is less common.

Workers have a generally recognized right to strike, but the law 
nominally forbids public employees providing essential services from 
striking.  A procedure exists for the review of their grievances by a 
tribunal appointed by the Minister of Labour.  Most strikes in 1995 were 
illegal, i.e., the union leadership did not approve them or they did not 
meet the requirements specified in collective bargaining agreements.

Unions and their federations freely maintain relations with recognized 
Caribbean and international trade union and professional groups.  All 
three of the major international trade union 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.

Individual unions directly negotiate collective bargaining status, 
pursuant to the 1993 repeal of a regulation which required that all 
collective bargaining be negotiated through the TUC.  Unions are 
dissatisfied with the provision granting the Ministry of Finance veto 
power over wage contracts negotiated by other ministries.

The Chief Labour Officer and the staff of the Ministry of Labour provide 
consultation, enforcement, and conciliation services.  The Ministry has 
a backlog of cases, compounded by insufficient manpower and 
transportation, which severely limit the Ministry's ability to function.

There are 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 occurs.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Factories Act and the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act 
set out minimum age requirements for employment.  Legally, no person 
under age 14 may be employed in any industrial undertaking, and no 
person under age 16 may be employed at night, except under regulated 
circumstances.  The law permits children under age 14 to be employed 
only in enterprises in which members of the same family are employed.  
Poverty-stricken young children work, 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 Labour Act and the Wages Councils Act allow the Labour Ministry to 
set minimum wages for various categories of private employers.  The 
Government raised official minimum wages by 16 percent in January which 
set the minimum wage for workers at $46.04 (G$6,353) per month.  Both 
the legal minimum wage for the private sector and the public sector 
minimum wage are insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for 
a family.  There is no enforcement mechanism, and unorganized workers, 
particularly women and children, are frequently paid less than what is 
legally required.

The Shops Act and the Factories Act set hours of employment, which vary 
by industry and sector.  In general, work in excess of an 8-hour day or 
a 44-hour week requires payment of an overtime rate.  However, if the 
initial contract stipulates a 48-hour workweek, then the overtime rate 
only applies for hours worked in excess of 48 hours.  The law does not 
provide for at least a 24-hour rest period.

The Factories Act also sets forth workplace safety and health standards.  
The Occupation Health and Safety Division of the Ministry of Labour is 
charged with conducting factory inspections and investigating complaints 
of substandard workplace 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 jeopardizing continued 


[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1995 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.