Jan 12, 2010 Letters
Having been in the trade union movement long enough and exposed to the workings of the Ministry of Labour and the Ministers’ efforts to resolve industrial disputes it is clear from the statements of the Minister of Labour, Mr. Manzoor Nadir, (SN January 2, 2010) that he doesn’t care an iota for all the workers of this country and the respect for the Laws of Guyana he has sworn to uphold.
I am aware if the Minister is having difficulty in understanding his role there are enough advisers in the Ministry and the voluminous presence of law books to guide him if he is so desirous or committed to having the bauxite dispute resolve.
The issue before us is one of workers’ rights consistent with the rule of law. Rights and the rule of law are the foundation upon which every decent society is built and maintained.
They are non-negotiable and must be honoured! The Bauxite Company Guyana Inc (BCGI) economic viability has nothing to do with the transgression of workers’ rights and the rule of law.
They are two separate and distinct issues. It is understood from the Minister’s statement that it is ok for BCGI to transgress the rights of the taxpaying workers and violate the Laws of Guyana to ensure an economic viability that is yet to be validated. It should be noted that the Government of Guyana/RUSAL Agreement is yet to be honoured. Further, according to the Financial Times (Dec. 31,
2009) RUSAL said its net profit in 2009 is “unlikely to be less than $434 million”.
After reading the Minister’s comments that the Ministry did not conduct an investigation to determine whether the signatures in its possession were done under duress or free will yet concluding that it “may indicate that those signatures were gotten of free will” (SN
January 2, 2010) indicates the level of contempt and disregard being shown for the laws and rights of the bauxite workers. It further indicates a direct assault on the Guyana Bauxite &General Workers Union (GB&GWU).
When the GB&GWU was seeking recognition for Oldenorff workers under Nadir’s stewardship as Minister and Mohamed Akeel as Chief Labour Officer and Secretary of the Trade Union Recognition Board, a perusal of the company’s record was conducted to verify the authenticity of workers’ signatures in addition to interviewing those who signed the GB&GWU Membership form. This is the first and only time in the history of Guyana this has ever happened. And this action denied workers the Right to Freedom of Association and trade union representation for more than two years.
If the Ministry was prepared to intimidate workers from enjoying their rights as in the Oldenorff case, in this instance when there is enough concerns being raised that workers are being coerced by BCGI to engage in an illegal act by having them sign a company prepared petition seeking de-recognition of their union the Ministry should have been out there conducting an investigation to ascertain the truth and ensure the rights of workers are protected.
Under the Recognition Act no employer can select or participate in the activities that lead to workers arriving at a union of their choice and the Ministry should be out there ensuring the laws are respected. For the Minister to constantly pronounce on the impasse and using choice words to make the union out as the villain without engaging the parties to enquire into what went on is an abrogation of his ministerial responsibility as Chief Conciliator under the law. His statements are also in tandem with BCGI to deny workers the right to a union of their choice. This is union busting and illegal and even more troubling that the Minister is participating in action in contravention of the Recognition Act.
As long as the Recognition Certificate as issued by the Trade Union Recognition Board is in place every Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) that emerges from that recognition is legal unless otherwise stated.
The CLA between BCGI and GB&GWU is legal and can only be null and void at the end of its stipulated life or made so by the Courts of the Land.
In the meanwhile the company has to deal with the Union and the Minister knows this too. Minister Nadir must stop his prevarication and politics at the expense of workers’ rights and the rule of law!
Everything that comes out of Jagdeo’s mouth is aimed at confusing this nation.
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