1st set of laid-off Guyana Goldfields workers paid severance

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The first set of Guyana Goldfields workers, who were laid off by Aurora Gold Mine have received their severance payments. This is according to the workers’ union, National Mining Workers Union (NMWU).

According to NMWU President Sherwin Downer in a statement, workers reported that their severance payments were deposited into their bank accounts. According to him, however, they were not paid as much as was expected.

“Guyana Goldfields Inc in an establishment set in the past has paid its employees under three weeks per year severance. Workers who went off under a voluntary departure over the last two months were paid two weeks per year but now the unionised workers who are being made redundant are being paid a mere one week per a year severance,” Downer said.

Downer was of the view that these experiences with Guyana Goldfields expose the urgent need for a Labour Ministry, as was in place prior to the APNU/AFC taking office in 2015.

This, he said, will allow for workers’ rights and issues to be more properly addressed.

“Mining companies come and go from Guyana and with mining remaining the largest contributor to Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP), what are the success stories of mining and local workers? “It is hoped that the next party that forms the Government after the conclusion of the recount, will, through an established Ministry of Labour, address the issue of and review the one week per year severance payment for employees as this is a disadvantage to workers,” he said, also expressing hope that a labour court will be established.

Only recently, Guyana Goldfields had announced it would be making large-scale layoffs of its staff at the Aurora Gold Mine. Goldfields had blamed COVID-19 and financial challenges for its decision.

This was communicated in a letter from Goldfields Chief Executive Officer, Alan Pangbourne, dated May 11, 2020. In defence of the decision, Pangbourne cited COVID-19 issues and other difficulties over the past few months.

A few weeks ago, this publication had seen a list of 42 unionised employees who were terminated. They range from pump attendants and electricians to heavy-duty equipment operators and blasters.

At the time, Downer had said that as many as 104 permanent workers were sent home and four had their contracts not renewed.

Guyana Goldfields has had a rollercoaster year, with former CEO Scott Caldwell resigning and a shareholder’s dispute. It has also had to contend with workers striking over concerns about their severance.

They had then entered an agreement to sell their operations to a fellow Canadian mining company, Silvercorp. However, another company by the name of Gran Columbia then entered the picture in an attempt to outmuscle Silvercorp.

The company on May 11 had made a pitch to Goldfields by proposing to buy all its issued shares. According to Guyana Goldfields, however, its Board reaffirmed its unanimous support for the transaction previously