In a press statement released today, the Guyana Public Service Union supported the Ministry of Natural Resources decision to close down the Guyana Gold Board Laboratory. Nonetheless, the GPSU demands the Ministry to take heed to their other concerns regarding the facility.
“Yesterday’s disclosure by way of a Ministry of Natural Resources media that the operations of the Guyana Gold Board Laboratory has been closed with immediate effect, is enthusiastically welcomed by the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU).
While it was, in the opinion of the Union, a matter of considerable regret that the eventual closure was preceded by considerable prevarication and delay, having regard to the manifest evidence of the health hazard posed to the workers on account of the mercury-related processing of gold on the premises housing GGMC workers which has been available for some time now, the Union is pleased that good sense has prevailed and that the Gold Board Laboratory will no longer be operating from the same premises.
The Union’s other concerns pertain to:
1. The need for the Ministry of Natural Resources to undertake a professional examination of the premises in order to ensure that there do not exist any residual health dangers arising out of the protracted mercury-related processing of gold on the premises; AND
2. The need for workers who had been potentially put at risk on account of having had to share a space – so to speak – with the Gold Board’s processing operations and, where applicable, to take such treatment-related action as is necessary, all of this at the expense of the Government of Guyana.
In the longer term the GPSU wishes to repeat its call for a meeting between the Ministry and the Union with a view to arriving at a specific and longer-term understanding governing the workplace safety and health of its members who, in the course of the execution of their duties as public servants in the mining sector, might potentially be exposed to health-related risks.
Conscious as it is of the importance of gold to the country’s economy, it is the Union’s risk that the Government of Guyana move with due haste to put in place adequate alternative arrangements for the processing of gold. Those arrangements, we expect, will, from the outset take full account of both the safety and health of the workers as well as for the need to ensure that the efficiency of the gold-processing arrangements are not compromised in any way.
All of this, of course, raises the question of already existing concerns over safety and health concerns existing in other workplaces occupied by state-employed workers and the failure over many years to have those concerns addressed. In this regard the GPSU wishes to restate its concerns over the failure on the part of Government to take serious action to correct the safety and health concerns which, as far as we are aware, continue to obtain on the Camp Road premises housing the Guyana Revenue Authority. This, despite the public undertaking given by Finance Minister Winston Jordan more than two years ago that the safety and health concerns would have been addressed.
It is the view of the GPSU that this is the opportune time for government, in collaboration with the Union, to undertake a comprehensive safety and health audit at workplaces occupied by state-employed workers and to take immediate steps, where necessary, to effect upgrading measures, where necessary.
We have, incidentally, communicated with both the Minister of Natural Resources and the Commissioner of the Guyana Geology Mines Commission seeking urgent and direct dialogue on what the Union considers to be a matter of particular importance to the welfare of a section of our membership. We are deeply disappointed over the fact that up to this time we have not even been accorded the courtesy of an acknowledgement of our communication, far less a substantive response.”