Rusal restarts Aroaima, Kwakwani operations
- letter indicates union accepted retrenchment of 75 workers
By Leonard Gildarie
The Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc.(BCGI), owned by Russia’s RUSAL, has announced that more than 200 of the almost 600 employees who were on strike have returned and work has resumed in some sections of operations at Kwakwani and Aroaima.
A statement from RUSAL yesterday said that on Friday, mining personnel restarted operations in Kwakwani and Aroaima.
“At 3:30pm the drying plant was turned on, despite some attempts by misguided residents of Ladernville to interrupt production.”
However, yesterday President of the Guyana Bauxite and Workers’ Union (GBWU), Charles Sampson, said that from their information it could be that a “few supervisors” may have been used to start the operations since the workers are just refusing to work until they hear about their salary increase.
Sampson was of the opinion that it was RUSAL’s tactic to attract workers back to the worksite.
With many of the workers living in the Linden environs, he said that buses were leaving virtually empty to the work sites.
BCGI, in the statement, said that it has maintained its promises to its workers to re-start production so that they can take home a decent pay-packet for upcoming Christmas holidays.
“Once again, management would like to acknowledge the loyalty and courage of those workers who returned yesterday (Thursday) and earlier today (Friday) to mine sites. Those workers, who were scheduled to report on November 26, 2009, are kindly asked to assemble at the Linden Constabulary Compound on Sunday, December 6, at 13:00hrs.
“All other current employees of the company who are interested in resuming their work should contact the Human Resource Department at 440-2313 ext 5405 for further information and advice.”
According to RUSAL, its management hopes to stabilise the production and restore normalcy within the near future, after which it will proceed to make payments for its obligations to workers (Monthly Production Bonus, Safety Bonus etc). “Management is also exploring all options to enhance the year end pay-packet.”
Yesterday, too, the union said that it wrote the company, informing that RUSAL had no authority to “derecognise it” since this falls under the sole authority of the province of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board.
On November 22, workers at RUSAL’s operations at Aroaima and Kwakwani downed tools after talks for wages’ increase broke down.
Talks had been ongoing since earlier this year when strikes were called on two occasions. RUSAL has since said that the union is not allowed to strike under its Collective Labour Agreement.
In November, the union accepted one of three options from the company to lower original demands from 40 per cent to 10 per cent along with the retrenchment of 75 workers.
However, workers who the union said originally agreed to the retrenchment and 10% increase proposal, and which was acknowledged in a letter by the union to the company, went on strike, not agreeing to the proposal of being retrenched and for the 10 per cent increase.
The union claimed in newspaper reports that it never agreed to the retrenchment of 75 workers although this was stated in a letter dated November 13 to the company’s General Manager, Sergey Kostyuk.
The union in that letter said that during negotiations on November 11, it was presented with three options by the company.
“The Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union agreed to accept the company’s number one proposal.
The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), last week also called on the company to reinstate over 50 dismissed workers.
The party at its weekly press conference at its Sophia headquarters said that there is no provision in the collective labour agreement signed last year that will allow the bauxite company to terminate it in the way it did.
PNCR was of the opinion that the CLA between RUSAL and GBWU is legal and binding for three years beginning January 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2010.
On March 30, 2009, the workers struck to protest the termination of a fellow employee by BCGI. “Article 46 of the CLA prohibits strikes and instead makes provisions for alternative dispute resolution sponsored by the Ministry of Labour. However, the GBWU’s General Secretary, Leslie Gonsalves, refused to acknowledge that this Article made strike action unlawful as a breach of the CLA, and instead hollowly insisted that it had no application.”
According to the company, on March 31, 2009, following discussions with the GBWU, terms of resumption were settled and work was resumed.
Listing other instances of GBWU breaching the CLA by taking strike actions earlier this year, BCGI said that it has been engaged in discussions with the union following a demand for a 40% salary increase retroactive to January 2009.
The GBWU by letter dated 13 November, 2009, and signed by Gonsalves on behalf of the Union, chose the first option of “a retroactive 10 per cent increase with a reduction of the workforce of approximately 14 per cent or 75 persons.”
However, the company said, upon workers becoming angry, Gonsalves informed them and the media that the Union had never agreed to a reduction of the work-force, insisting that it had only agreed to the 10 per cent increase.
This “deliberate misrepresentation” that BCGI had unilaterally taken a decision to reduce the work-force, has caused the present strike, the statement said.
“Yet again, BCGI has pleaded with the Union’s leadership to observe the provisions of the CLA and specifically Article 46, but these persons have declined to do so.”