This bauxite company is flouting the local laws
The Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) has taken the Minister of Labour to court for exercising his power under the Labour Law, Chapter 98:01 and imposing arbitration between the company and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU), the workers’ representative.
Though I strongly believe that this is a waste of the Court’s time I will await its ruling. Attention is paid to the reasons given by the Human Resources Officer, Elena Gorshkova, via a Press Release, for the company’s actions.
Ms. Gorshkova is either being badly advised, thinks the company is above the Laws of Guyana, or being disingenuous, and it becomes important to set the record straight.
The company’s refusal to negotiate with the union came to a head in November 2009, reaching a national crisis when at a December 2, 2009 conciliation meeting chaired by then Chief Labour Officer, Yoganand Persaud, BCGI delivered a letter dated December 1, 2009 to the Union, Chief Labour Officer, and then Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir, stating: “We wish to advise that Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. hereby deems the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) entered into between the Company, the Guyana Bauxite and Workers’ Union, and the Ministry of Labour dated the 4th April, 2008, as terminated with immediate effect…and the company will move to derecognize the Union.”
This is an out of order position taken by the company since it does not have the scope or authority to determine who the workers chose as their representative. As clearly stated in Article 147(1) of the Guyana Constitution, “Except with his or her consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of assembly, association and freedom to demonstrate peacefully, this is to say, his or her right to assemble freely, to demonstrate peacefully and to associate with persons and in particular to form or belong to…trade unions…for the protection of his or her interests.”
This right and freedom is reinforced in the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Act Chapter98:07, Section 23 (1) ‘Compulsory recognition and duty to treat’ which states: “When a trade union obtains a certificate of recognition for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in accordance with this Part, the employer shall recognise the union, and the union and the employer shall bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining.”
The 67 workers who on 22ndMay 2009 refused to operate dump trucks did so because the air conditioning units were not working. This is consistent with their right and freedom. According to the Guyana Constitution Article 147 (2), “except with his or her own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom to strike.”
If our supreme law says we can strike then this is a right and freedom no one can or must think they can take away from us.
Also, the Occupational Safety andHealth Act (1997) Section 56 (1) ‘Refusal to work’, expressly states, “ A worker may refuseto work or do particular work where he has reasonable justification to believe that : (a) any equipment, machine, device or article the worker is to use or operate presents an imminent and serious danger to the life or health of himself, or another worker; or (b) the physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he works or isto work presents an imminent and serious danger to his life or health.”
The above stated articles and section also apply to the 8thNovember, 2010 action by workers who expressed their grievances for having to eat meals that were prepared with expired rations and in a rat and rodent-infested kitchen. The company itself confirmed the workers’ grievances.
Workers of Guyana are not hogs who can be feed anything. Even farmers who value their hogs’ worth would not mistreat them.
The company also ignores Article46 (2) of the Collective Labour Agreement signed between itself and the GB&GWU, which clearly states, “in the event of a strike, lockout or any form of work stoppage the parties shall meet urgently and expeditiously to bring the situation back to normalcy.”
Instead it has been arbitrarily suspending and dismissing workers, and operating above the Collective Labour Agreement, Labour Laws and Guyana Constitution.
As BCGI seeks excuses for violating our laws and trampling workers under the notion that their “activities[are] inimical to [the] employer’s interests” they ignore the employer’s interest cannot be at the expense of the workers’ rights, freedoms, health and safety, the CLA, Labour Laws and the Guyana Constitution.
The company is advised that Guyana is a nation governed by its own laws, premised on universal declaration and international conventions.
The company cannot come here, disobey our laws and trample on the citizens and think there will be silence and complicity in the face of these violations. This is not what true Guyanese are made of.
As a people we will not allow our freedoms and rights fought for over hundreds of years, through bitter struggles, blood, sweat and tears to now be taken away. Justice is ours and justice must prevail!