– Rusal bent of destabilising workers’ union
The deterioration of the industrial relations climate over the past two years at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) is of much concern to the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC). At a press conference on Friday, Acting General Secretary, Norris Witter, said that it is most disconcerting to note the attitude of the management of the company, which seems bent on destabilising the Bauxite and General Workers Union (BGWU). According to Witter, the BGWU is the sole representative union tasked with the bargaining rights for the workers of the Russian based company, RUSAL.
Witter divulged that reports at the disposal of the GTUC suggest that the BCGI management has been employing some of the most ancient, dirty tactics of union-busting. “Intimidation, harassment, victimisation, frustration etc. have all been exercised by the management to achieve its objective,” Witter added.
According to the Trade Unionist, the GTUC notes with grave concern that the BCGI management has unquestionably been in breach of established industrial relations principles and the labour laws of Guyana. Witter underscored that the government of Guyana through its Ministry responsible for Labour, apart from hosting a few token meetings with the parties, has proven to be either incapable or unwilling to call the Russian company to board for its violation of time-honoured industrial principles and the labour laws.
“For too long foreign companies and individuals, particularly those with connections to high officials of the state, have been infringing with impunity, laws, treaties, agreements, and established principles of our country with little or no intervention from the relevant state institution.”
The government, Witter said, has failed miserably to protect its citizens from external economic predators, yet when foreign governments protect their citizens to the detriment of overseas Guyanese “Guyana’s Jagdeo Government balks.”
However, the GTUC, Witter highlighted, is in full support and solidarity with the struggling workers of RUSAL. He added that the union is also calling on all workers, unionised or un-unionised to give full solidarity to the RUSAL workers. “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Today it is the RUSAL workers, tomorrow it may be you.”
Commenting also on the meagre three percent awarded to sugar workers, Witter said that “it was not a professional award made by the tribunal. That was a concoction.”
According to him, the award that was arrived at should have been done through cordial, enlightened and responsible negotiations, between Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).”
Witter revealed that over the last three years, the Minister of Labour has been imposing compulsory arbitration on GAWU to determine wage increases. He noted though that it is ironic that when the Labour Minister imposed compulsory arbitration this year, it was the first time that GAWU had sought to raise the issue of it being imposed prematurely. In emphasising that GAWU and the government are inseparable, Witter noted that the arbitration process was no less than an attempt to “try the case of Lucifer in Hell.”
But Witter said he is confident that the eyes of the sugar workers have been opened and they are ready to take action.
Witter pointed out that the administration has a tendency to “kick out” people such as in the case of Navin Chandarpaul, when they cannot agree on the administration’s view as it relates to torture and the manipulation of sugar workers among other things.
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