Large-scale layoffs begin at Guyana Goldfields; Union criticises Govt for doing very little to protect workers

Aurora Gold Mines (Guyana Goldfields)

The National Mining Workers’ Union (NMWU) has slammed the non-implementation of the collective labour agreement, something that would have safeguarded workers’ rights even as the first set of layoffs begin at Aurora Gold Mine (AGM).

INews saw a list of 42 unionised employees, who were terminated. They range from pump attendants and electricians to heavy-duty equipment operators and blasters.

According to NMWU President Sherwyn Downer, in a statement on Wednesday, as many as 104 permanent workers were sent home and four had their contracts not renewed.

“It is beyond disappointing that the union and company were not able to sign on to the collective labour agreement, as the (union) is just nine months old at AGM,” Downer said in a statement.

According to him, he inherited a situation at AGM where there were employees working there for more than two years on a contractual basis. Downer said that this exceeded the three-month probationary period required by the labour laws.

“Hundreds of Guyanese lost years of service prior to 2015, when Goldfields started production and poured its first gold bar in the said year. Many workers were only confirmed from 2015 and not prior to the same year despite working with the company for years, some from 2010 and way before that.

“Since the company started production in 2015, the employees were never given the opportunity to have an across-the-board increase in salaries. It was only done unilateral for (some),” Downer said in the statement.

When it comes to workers’ rights, the union leader also criticised the government for its lack of representation on behalf of workers over the years. Reference was made to RUSAL and Troy Resource workers, who have also had troubles with their employers.

“With the facts and numbers of hundreds of Lindeners who lost jobs. As President of the NMWU, I’m asking the APNU/AFC Government if they are proud of this great loss of jobs to the Lindeners and tell the Guyanese people how many jobs were created for Lindeners as against the numbers lost.”

Downer acknowledged that notwithstanding the inertia of the Government on the issue, Guyana Goldfields did agree to ensure that workers who were made redundant receive their severance in a timely manner.

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.

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.