After a series of protests by various stakeholders in Guyana against the recent actions of Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI), which is owned by Russian Aluminum company, RUSAL, where 61 striking employees were fired, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman on Friday said Government is geared at taking action against the company, even if it means having the company shut down its operations in Guyana.
“What I can say is that I have ordered the GGMC (Guyana Geology and Mines Commission) to conduct a technical and legal assessment of all of RUSAL’s operations. I am hoping that I can get that report for presentation to his Excellency (President David Granger) and other Ministers on Tuesday. And we are looking at all of the legal and other consequences, either them closing or we closing them. We just can’t have the status quo continue as is,” said the Minister on Friday, on the sidelines of a tour of the bauxite operations in Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice).
He said the lawyers representing the Government have advised that an assessment needs to be completed before further comments surrounding the issue can be made.
Meanwhile, in a release to the media on Friday, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle stated that he has invited the management the company along with the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) to a meeting on Monday at the Labour Department.
The Chief Labour Officer is optimistic that at Monday’s meeting, he would be able to convince management of the Russian-based company that in the interest of all stakeholders’ normalcy be returned without further delay.
The 61 workers were fired by the Russian owned company after they protested a one per cent salary increase, which they said were agreed to by Government. Following a meeting with Government, RUSAL refused to reinstate the workers and subsequently dismissed 30 more persons from the department in order to temporarily close it as a result of the strike actions.
On Thursday, union leaders in Guyana took to the streets to stage a picketing exercise in front of RUSAL’s headquarters in Queenstown, Georgetown. The leaders called on Government to take action against the foreign enterprise, citing that it had violated laws of Guyana and the rights of workers.
GB&GWU President Lincoln Lewis, during the protest, told the media that the protest attracted the leaders of all trade unions operating in Guyana because they are cognisant that over the last decade RUSAL has been operating in a manner without impunity resulting in the citizens of Guyana suffering.
Sugar workers’ call
Meanwhile, sugar workers, particularly those fired following the closure of several estates, are now calling for similar representation in the wake of the unions’ collective response to RUSAL’s termination of over 90 bauxite workers.
Over the past three years, Government has closed four sugar estates – Skeldon, Wales, Enmore and Rose Hall – putting more than 7000 workers on the breadline. The rights of some of these workers were trampled upon after they were forced to wait for more than one year to receive their severance packages from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
As such, in light of Thursday’s protest by the trade unions of Guyana outside RUSAL’s headquarters, the sugars workers believe a similar approach would be beneficial to their cause.
During a meeting at the Labour Department last week, the BCGI representatives said the company does not recognise the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union.
“We have no relation with this union,” the Russian company’s representative had said. “It happened before I came to Guyana to work … it was an alternative poll. This poll took place on October 3, 2017. It was won by Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union.
Only a few weeks after, we got information that the Judge in (a case decided) this board was constituted with some breaches and could be considered illegal. It meant former worker was considered by decision of Judge illegal. I think many people knew the board was illegal. But nobody said to us such a (poll) could be considered nil and void,” the company’s representative said.
This is a reference to the judgement issued in the case of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB) versus the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).
FITUG General Secretary Carvil Duncan had claimed that TURCB unilaterally appointed a chairman in 2015 without consulting them, and only recognised the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC).
In the written judgement issued by the High Court on November 8, 2017, it said FITUG was not consulted prior to the appointment of a chair in 2015. This was found to be in violation of the Trade Union Recognition Act, especially as it relates to the selection of a chairman of the organisation.