Guyanese trade unionists took to the streets on this morning to stand in solidarity with the workers who were arbitrarily dismissed by Russian-owned aluminum company, RUSAL.
In a peaceful picketing exercise outside of the firm’s headquarters at Queenstown, the various workers’ unions called for government to take strong actions against the Bauxite Company for not honouring the country’s labour laws.
According to the President of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU), Lincoln Lewis, this protest is only the beginning and similar actions will continue to ensure that the RUSAL, adheres to the laws and corrects its actions against its Guyanese employees.
“When foreign nationals come here and decide that they are going to violate laws and transgress rights with impunity and when the government speaks they defy anything that the government says and makes derogatory statements about government. This is about our national sovereignty and collectively labour is signaling today in another way that we will not condone nay form of re-colonization, we will not condone any form of the economic models that we have fought against in the past which is slavery and indentureship,” said Mr. Lewis.
General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Coretta McDonald, stated that the policies in place for foreign companies operating in Guyana need to be reviewed and revamped to ensure that Guyanese labourers are not taken advantage of.
She explained that stipulations must be laid out and that would be the only way to ensure that Guyanese employees protected from foreign companies which exploit them.
Additionally, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand noted that RUSAL needs to re-engage the 90 workers that it sent packing, and let them resume their duties, without any deductions to their pay and benefits. He added that RUSAL cannot claim to be operating at a loss in Guyana since that would be unbelievable.
“The fact that they could hide their figures because they could have transferred to their parent company explained that to look at their records and to able to see what they are saying cannot be accurate, an accurate picture. And nobody would believe that…The basic thing that they ought to do is re-instate the workers, well not re-instate but more so re-engage the workers,” stated Chand.
As the issues intensify, residents of Kwakwani, Region 10 – where RUSAL operates – retaliated against the company blocking the access road which leads to its operations.
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has already instructed the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to commence a technical review of the company’s operations in light of these developments.