RUSAL working with experienced advice – Corbin
RUSAL is working on expert advice on how to break the law, said Leader of People’s National Congress Reform, Robert Corbin, when he addressed media operatives at the party’s weekly press briefing on Thursday.
His response followed a disclosure that a former official of the Ministry of Labour had in fact been offering advice to the company while he occupied the government office. “This is a very sad situation but at the same time we cannot argue conflict of interest since he no longer works with the Ministry”. According to Corbin, the state of affairs is in fact a distressing reflection on the quality of personnel that have operated within the labour sector even as he pondered on how long workers may have been wronged. “We wonder how many workers causes were sacrificed in the past,” Corbin queried.
Based on his assessment of the situation, the opposition leader disclosed that there is a requirement for the Ministry of Labour “to put its foot down and let RUSAL know that it cannot behave in Guyana as it behaved in Guinea. If it persists in that way then the government has levers of control to ensure that they take corrective action.”
“Guinea didn’t mix matters with (Rusal),” Corbin said.
Corbin said that the authorities of the Republic of Guinea had even requested that the human resource manager of RUSAL leave, a move which demonstrated that there was political will on the part of the government.
According to Corbin, the government of Guinea did not tolerate the abuse of workers or breach of their laws, an act he believes should be emulated by the government as there are agreements that were made with RUSAL.
“They have been given special facilities to function in the Bauxite sector here and if the minister stops condoning the company and pulls the rug from under their feet they will behave differently because it is setting a bad example for industrial relations in this country. If they can breach the trade union recognition act which took so long to become a reality and get away with it in this country and it seems no redress is possible.”
According to Corbin, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union should make independent representation to the Trade Union and Recognition board which was not the contemplation of the act at all. He explained that it should have been the Ministry of Labour to see who is breaching the law and take the necessary legal action against such defaulters.
Basically, it is required that the Ministry look to see where the law has been breached and independently take action and not leave it to the workers to seek redress through informal representation. For this reason, Corbin disclosed that he has written the Minister of Labour, Mr. Manzoor Nadir, over his failure to carry out his constitutional duty to intervene in the dispute between the GB&GWU and RUSAL’s Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc.
The two-month old dispute started in November 2009, when RUSAL’s workers went on strike for increased pay, shutting down the Aroaima and Kwakwani sites. RUSAL subsequently, in breach of the Collective labour Agreement and the Trade Union Recognition Act, announced that it was derecognising the union. More than 50 workers, including the union’s shop stewards, were dismissed as workers returned for the Christmas and sites restarted operations.
Meanwhile, the Minister has refused to intervene in a matter that can set unacceptable precedents for the industrial relations climate in Guyana, Corbin note.
The Union has, in the meantime, taken their case to the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Trade Union Recognition Board, which according to Corbin, is not a substitute for the functions of the Minister of Labour as required under the Laws of Guyana.
The PNCR, according to Corbin, again calls upon Minister Nadir to carry out his constitutional responsibility and intervene in the interest of the Bauxite workers.