RUSAL and the Bauxite Union have finally reached an agreement which will see the fired workers being reinstated and the clearing of the blockages in the Berbice River.
See full statement from the Union:
Strike ends and Terms of Resumption
The workers’ struggle, which began on 22nd November 2009, has ended after approximately nine (9) years, three (3) months, and twenty-eight (28) days. The recent industrial conflict from February 15th, one (1) month and four (4) days, has also ended today with the signing of Terms of Resumption (ToR) which includes reinstatement of all 61 dismissed workers and those laid off during the dispute; no victimisation or change of conditions for the reinstated workers; no compensation for time not worked during the dispute; return of the check-off system; and clearing of the Berbice River.
Both parties have further agreed to recognise the sovereignty, Constitution and Laws of Guyana and neither shall act in contravention thereof; promised to uphold the spirit and goodwill to which the ToR was negotiated and signed and will do nothing to circumvent same.
Subsequent meeting with be held within fourteen (14) days following the full resumption of work and the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) shall commence negotiation of a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA). The parties agreed that in the pursuit of a new CLA and in the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes the procedure used for dealing with same in the old (former) CLA shall be utilised as an interim measure; and further agreed that all major issues which involve conditions of employment shall be addressed with a view to achieving resolution.
History of BCGI workers struggle
In the history of independent Guyana this is the longest industrial conflict on record occurring under the Bharrat Jagdeo regime, and continued under the Donald Ramotar regime, only be resolved finally under the Coalition Government. Looking back this is a struggle that never should have been. It is a struggle that GB&GWU was bound to come out successful, regardless of long it went, because the laws were on our side.
It is unfortunate however inspite of the Constitution and laws that protect workers that successive PPP government ignored the pleas and struggles of GB&GWU to hold BCGI accountable and to protect those who it was bound by Constitution to represent. And to imagine that could have occurred under a government headed by a party founded by working class advocate Dr. Cheddie Jagan is an indictment of his legacy.
GB&GWU thanks the Ministry of Social Protection, more particularly Minister Amna Ally who brought a seriousness and intolerance to the violation of the Laws of Guyana and Guyanese workers. Thanks to the media, local and international, for standing with us during this time; the countless individuals on social media, the people of Guyana, who took on this fight personally. The workers and families of BCGI and the communities around, thank you for standing up for your rights and standing for justice.
Thank you to the GTUC, FITUG, GPSU and trade unionists from near and far, including the international unions, that gave us support and encouraged us on to keep the fight. For those businesses affected by the blockage of the river and sacrificed silently as workers struggle, GB&GWU regrets the inconvenience caused but thank you for your forbearance during this period. Thanks to all those who contributed food stuff and other supplies to keep the workers and their families going. Thanks everyone for defending Guyana. In true trade union spirit, we are stronger together.
We remember our fallen brother at this time, Carlton Sinclair, President of the Aroaima branch, who started this struggle with us and dedicated his energies up until he departed the land of the living. GB&GWU is sure if there is power in the decease, he is smiling now and saying, “job well done.”
This was a hard-fought battle and there are miles to go still to ensure that what happened here does not repeat itself, not only with GB&GWU but with any union, where the laws of the country are disrespected by successive governments and a foreign company to create unnecessary and prolonged industrial conflict. This is a battle that should have never been.
No confidence in Mohamed Akeel
Analysing the circumstance of our struggles leave us to conclude that whereas the Russian principles of BCGI erred, their behaviour and maltreatment of the workers could not have been possible had our fellow Guyanese not chosen to encourage and participate in the violation of our laws and workers’ rights.
We must remember that BCGI has in its employ as Labour Advisor, a Guyanese and former Chief Labour Officer Mohamed Akeel, who has more than 25 years of service with the Labour Department. He knows better yet failed to adequately represent the Laws of Guyana protecting the rights of BCGI workers. This brings into question the quality/efficiency of his performance and whether he is best capable of serving the interest of BCGI and the Union in upholding the signed agreement.
The Union declares today that it has no confidence in Mohamed Akeel. And for as long as he remains in the employ of BCGI his attitude and behaviour toward workers will be placed under the microscope and exposed. We are convinced that his is the attitude that creates unnecessary conflict, highly suggestive of political and racial overtones. Guyana can do better and must unite to safeguard our gains as a sovereign nation.
GB&GWU commits to upholding its end of the agreement and will not shy away from holding BCGI accountable for same.