No union representation as pregnant woman given hoeing duties – GRDB’s Burma Research Station workers

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Workers protesting outside GRDB’s Burma Research Station

Workers attached to the Guyana Rice Development Board Research Station at Burma on Wednesday held a picketing exercise to signal to management that they are not pleased with Union dues being deducted and paid to a Union which is not representing them.

The workers are trying to get management to stop deducting Union dues from their wages and salaries. About two months ago, about 80 workers signed a petition asking management to stop deducting Union dues and paying it to the Union of Allied and Agriculture Workers (UAAW). However, Union dues continue to be deducted. Wednesday morning’s picketing exercise was to send a signal to management that the workers do not want those dues deducted.

The petition, which was signed by scores of workers, was sent to the Administrative Manager of the organisation and also to the General Manager.

Sherwin Mingo, who is the workers’ Union representative, said a letter was also dispatched to management.

“Management has denied our request and continues to deduct the money from our wages. We do not want UAAW to represent us,” Mingo said, adding that while the majority of workers have indicated that they are not in favour of the Union of Allied and Agriculture Workers, a handful of staff are still in favour of representation from that Union.

“We don’t know what is the agreement with management and UAAW because things happening and we can’t say what really going on but our dues are still being deducted and that is what we do not want. The Union is not representing us. The Union has 16 persons who they are representing at the present moment,” Mingo added.

Non-representation

Patrice Downer, who has been working with the facility for the past 10 years, is five months pregnant. She claimed that she is being victimised because she asked for lighter forms of work.

According to the labourer, who is a mother of five, as a result of her request, she was instructed to hoe beds.

“I used to work in the fields when the pregnancy had just started, now it is much older. I asked for inside work but they give me a run-around. They say there is no work to do inside the building and it is fieldwork that I apply to do… They ask me if I could hoe and I told them that I would try because I used to hoe the plots. When I go, if you see this dam that they give me to hoe. I had to call in the HR and so. After that, I am being victimised,” the woman claimed.

Downer explained that for years she would supply food to workers who do not walk with lunch. She explained that it was one way to make extra money to take care of her family. However, after the recent incident, she was told that she can no longer sell food in the compound.

Meanwhile, Wendy Fordyce, who has been with the organisation for 17 years, said she has been recently having high blood pressure and with a job of raking grass, the sun is making it no better for her condition as a worker. She said she tried to engage her supervisors on the issue but to no avail.

The workers say there is no Union to represent them even though they are paying dues to a Union against their will.

Initially, the UAAW was representing these workers at the Burma Research Station, however, the workers were not satisfied with the service they were getting and they sought to have another Union represent them. The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) allegedly won an election and started representing those workers and had been doing so for just over a year. However, an injunction was filed in the High Court and granted by Justice Franklyn Holder, making those elections null and void. Management subsequently started deducting Union dues in favour of UAAW. The workers say they do not want that Union representing them and money deducted from their wages and salaries and paid to that Union. (This story was first published by the Guyana Times)