A senior executive of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union is asking the court to dismiss an action brought against himself and another executive by the Bauxite Company of Guyana, claiming that it is bad in law.
The bauxite company had sued the two union executives, Acting General Secretary, Leslie Gonsalves and Carlton Sinclair last year, claiming that they had incited a workers’ strike action at Aroaima which caused the company to suffer financially.
However, according to an affidavit filed by attorney-at-law Basil Williams in response to the company’s writ, on behalf of Gonsalves, the action should have been filed against the proper defendant which is the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) and not its officers.
According to Gonsalves, notwithstanding the fact that the company knows that he and Sinclair are merely officers of the union, the company proceeded to sue them in their personal capacities.
Additionally, Gonsalves pointed out that a registered trade union and its members and/or officers have immunity from such actions by virtue of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the Trade Unions Act.
Thus the claim for damages for actions allegedly committed by the defendants is not sustainable before the courts.
Gonsalves further pointed out that conspiracy by two or more persons to do an act in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute is also not applicable in a court of law according to Section 8(1).
However, he denied that he or Sinclair was involved in any conspiracy.
He said that they were merely acting as the workers’ union representatives whilst the workers were striking at Aroaima.
“I am further advised by my attorney…and verily believe, the plaintiff company’s claim that we induced their employees to breach their contracts of service with them, and that we interfered with the plaintiff company’s trade or business is also not actionable in our courts by virtue of the provisions of section 9 of the trade union act, if done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute,” the GB&GWU Acting General Secretary argued.
He explained that the bauxite workers at Aroaima went on strike to protest the poor occupational, health and safety conditions under which some drivers were forced to work – in trucks without air conditioning, causing one of them to collapse.
According to Gonsalves, the company’s response was to suspend the drivers on reduced pay, lock out from their living quarters those workers who supported the drivers, and dismiss some workers.
This resulted in the workers intensifying their strike action until the company and the union representing the workers signed a terms of resumption agreement on May 26, 2009.
The company had entered into a Collective Labour Agreement with the GB&GWU to run from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010.
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