RUSAL ordered to submit job proposal for restart of operations

The section of Berbice River that had been blocked off by workers of RUSAL

After pulling the plug on its operations in Guyana amid a major workers’ unrest, the Russian Aluminum company (RUSAL) has been ordered to submit a job proposal as part of its requirement for restarting works in the country.

Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton has said the government’s main objective is securing employment opportunities the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI)/Russian Aluminium (RUSAL).

During an interview with DPI, Minister Hamilton disclosed that the government advised RUSAL to outline a proposal in keeping with the country’s labour laws.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are currently assessing the proposal to finalise a date for the reopening of the company’s operations in the Berbice River.

Minister Hamilton explained that nearly 600 persons lost their jobs when the bauxite company suspended its operations in February.

Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton

RUSAL’s suspension led to its shipping company – Oldendorff Carriers Guyana Incorporated (OCGI) closing its operations – resulting in more job losses.

The Russian-led company has operated in Guyana since 2004 and has come under scrutiny several times for breaching labour practices.

RUSAL’s Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) subsidiary left Guyana in February of 2020, amid industrial unrest from their workers.

In leaving, the firm terminated 326 employees in the process. Workers had been striking for some time over pay-related issues, going so far as to block the Berbice River.

Prior to their decision to leave, BCGI was facing difficulties that included low production. In addition, when the company had initially announced its decision to terminate workers, it stated that it was experiencing difficulties after Government ended its duty-free arrangement for its fuel.

However, following the decision to lay-off employees, workers and residents blocked the section of the Berbice River utilised by the Aroaima-based company. This further compounded the company’s problems.

A letter from the company dated January 29, 2020, indicated that the company was forced to further reduce operations and to lay-off employees owing to adverse operating circumstances including shipment interruption because of the blockage of the Berbice River.

In fact, other Private Sector companies operating in the area were also forced to send home their workers as a result of the blockage hindering their operations to move materials up and down the Berbice River. When the police arrived to remove the blockade from the river, they were faced with resistance from the workers and their families.

The former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government was severely criticised for its handling of the issue and its failure to protect the interests of the hundreds of bauxite workers who were left jobless following the company’s decision to pull the plug on its operations.