Bauxite union pickets Labour Ministry
With the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) still awaiting a response from the Ministry of Labour with respect to its now three-month long dispute with the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BGCI), several union officials and public-spirited citizens staged a protest at the Ministry’s office at Water & Cornhill Streets.
Among the support group were social activist/journalist Mark Benschop, trade unionist Lincoln Lewis, UG lecturer/columnist Freddie Kissoon and WPA executive member, Desmond Trotman.
Speaking to this newspaper, Lewis said the protest is to bring attention to the refusal of the Minister of Labour to use the law to activate its legal responsibility to bring a resolution to the issue. Over the past three months, the Union had been at loggerheads with BCGI over a wage increase.
At the beginning of the year the union dispatched a letter to the Chief Labour Officer seeking his intervention in the matter.
Lewis said to date the union has not received a response from the Ministry. He added that the non response by the Ministry is “indicative that the Government is part and parcel of mistreatment of workers”.
Lewis stated that the Union is simply calling for a wage increase for the workers and the company is bluntly refusing to negotiate.
“The increase in wages is negotiated on a yearly basis and the last increase was in 2008 and they have refused an increase…but what they want to do is terminate the Collective Labor Agreement which is illegal,” Lewis pointed out. Lewis said that to add insult to injury the Company has asked workers to sign a petition to move to the Trade Union Recognition Board to have the union decertified. He added that the company has further refused to have any engagement with the union.
“These are serious issues which smack on the fundamental rights, it’s not only an issue of bargaining for workers but this is a question of rule of law”.
“As Guyanese we cannot allow a foreign company to come here and disrespect the law,” Lewis stessed.