Firing of striking bauxite workers
…blasts Govt for politicising industrial relations
As the impasse continues between Government and the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) over the firing of 90 employees from its Linden operations, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has accused the coalition Administration of being incapable of defending the workers.
Initially, 60 striking workers were fired by BCGI – which is owned by Russian Aluminum company, RUSAL – but an additional 30 were later dismissed after the department in which they were working was temporarily closed.
On Friday, Government threatened to shut the foreign company down, saying that the status quo cannot continue.
Meanwhile, speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, the Opposition Leader blasted Government on the issue saying, “they don’t defend anyone’s interest, they are incapable (and) incompetent, they can’t defend anyone’s interests, not the workers, not the people of Guyana”.
The former Head of State said that the Government has been meeting with the bauxite company behind closed doors and subsequently sent a Minister with the media to a worksite, which is not what is required to bring an end to the impasse between the workers and the foreign company.
He made it clear that despite the political climate in the country, the Government must not take advantage of the situation, but rather conduct its duties in the best interests of the workers, whose bread and butter was snatched.
Under PPP Administration
He reflected on his time in office under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) noting that a similar matter had arisen and the then Administration managed to save the jobs that were at risk.
“When we had to fight to keep the jobs of the bauxite workers in Aroaima and Burmine they were on the other side, Lincoln Lewis and the others and we managed to save those jobs when ALCOA (Aluminium Company of America) walked away.”
Jagdeo added, “We took back the company that was private to the treasury, brought it back, renationalised it and kept it going until we found a replacement…we worked hard to protect those workers there so our track record is important”.
Not only are private and foreign companies taking advantage of workers but the Government themselves are doing the same, the Opposition Leader said while making specific reference to the 7000 sacked sugar workers who had to go to the judiciary to get their legally entitled severance payments.
The Opposition Leader added that the then PPP Administration exhausted every effort to ensure that workers’ rights were protected, especially with the passing of several laws which mandated severance payments among others.
Jagdeo pointed out that he has been lending Government advice which seems to be of no use.
“We have lent them (Government) a ton of advice on how to treat workers with respect and they have not done anything. They have not done anything. This Government is not interested in listening even in this matter they are trying to politicise,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Minister on Friday told reporters that the Government is geared at taking action against the company, even if it means closing them down.
“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,” Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman told the media.
Meanwhile, RUSAL’S management, along with the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GBGWU) have been invited to a meeting on Monday at the Labour Department in an effort to resolve the impasse.
Sixty-one workers were fired by the Russian-owned company after they protested a one per cent salary increase, which they said was agreed to by Government. Following a meeting with Government, RUSAL refused to reinstate the workers.