BY DEVINA SAMAROO
In an announcement that sent shockwaves through the city, Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase Green declared that city businesses have been operating beyond hours prescribed by the law and the practice must be immediately stopped.
However, the Shops Consolidation (Amendment) Act 2009 states otherwise.
Chase Green told a public meeting on Friday that businesses are forbidden from opening on public holidays, on Sundays and beyond 16:30h (4:30pm) daily; warning that efforts will be made to ensure law and order is restored.
The announcement startled many business operators in Georgetown, some of whom contended that any such move will only further cripple the economy.
One business owner argued that the policy is anti-business and does not cater for working-class persons who usually do their shopping after working hours.
During an interview with Guyana Times Internationalon Monday, the Mayor maintained her position, emphasising that the law is clear.
“They (businesses) open at 07:30h and at seven in the night (19:00h), they are still opened while the law says it’s from 7:00am to 4:30pm (16:30h), and Saturdays are supposed to be half day and there are supposed to be no openings on Sundays; but they are in violation and nobody is saying anything about it,” she argued.
Chase Green said the concerns were brought to her attention by concerned citizens and therefore she decided to take action to put an end to the violation.
The Mayor said she will be writing to the Labour Department about the violation and that it will be up to those in charge to take the necessary actions to correct the breach.
“What you have existing right now is that majority of businesses open after 12 on Saturdays until four or five in the afternoons or until seven in the night. And on Sundays they are also open and on public holidays; and they are in violation… So it is left for them (Labour Ministry) to take that information and do what is necessary,” she stressed.
Chase Green posited, “It is the Ministry’s responsibility, not mine. I am responsible for the market and I make sure that the market is opened and closed on time.”
However, the Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Charles Ogle said the Mayor is erroneous in her claims.
He pointed to the Shops Consolidation (Amendment) Act 2009 which extends the operating hours for regular shops from 07:30h to 22:00h; restaurants and cook shops for 24 hours per day; and parlour, barber and hairdresser establishments from 06:00h to midnight every day.
Ogle presumed that the Mayor is referring to the old Act, which indeed stipulated an early closure time for businesses.
Moreover, he posited that it is the responsibility of the Police Commissioner and not the Labour Department to ensure that the businesses are operating in accordance with the law. He posited that the Mayor may have blundered once again in this regard.
The Shops Act stipulates that “it shall be the duty of the Commissioner of Police to enforce or cause to be enforced the provisions of this Act relating to the hours of opening and closing of shops and prohibited sales.”