Jan 04, 2011 News
… RUSAL’s no-show
A new meeting that authorities hope will bring some resolution to the year-long stand-off between Russian owned, RUSAL’s Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI), is expected to take place on Thursday.
According to the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), it has already committed itself to the Ministry of Labour to attend the meeting.
Last week, a similar meeting organised by the Ministry saw a no-show by RUSAL which said it was useless to attend the forum since it had already severed relations with the union a year ago. However, RUSAL’s stance elicited condemnation from both government and the union. According Minister of Labour, Manzoor Nadir, in a letter to the union, Government was unprepared to tolerate “from RUSAL any further disrespect to our laws, workers and people. I am strongly urging you to attend the next meeting called by the Ministry.”
The letter would also signal a more pronounced stance from Government after a year of being accused of not doing anything about the RUSAL matter in which 50-plus workers were fired in December 2009 for taking part in strike action for increased wages.
Last year, RUSAL wrote to GB&GWU, announcing its intentions to sever relations with the union and citing a number of breaches of labour agreements. GB&GWU on Wednesday said that it saw a letter by RUSAL to the Ministry in which the company stood by its decision of derecognising the union and as such does not consider the ministry’s invitation to a meeting as “valid”.
The Labour Minister in his letter to RUSAL’s General Manager, Ruslan Volokhov, said that the Ministry viewed the refusal as “gross disregard and disrespect for the country, the government and the laws of Guyana”.
He reminded RUSAL that GB&GWU is still the certified barging agent for a large section of the company’s workforce, with the company bound to meet with them.
“You cannot unilaterally declare that there exists no collective bargaining agreement.”
Nadir referred to the labour regulations that deal with workplace conflicts and noted that the Minister may, if he thinks fit, inquire into the causes and circumstances of the difference and “take such steps as, to him, may seem expedient for the purpose of promoting a settlement of the difference.”
Additionally, Nadir disclosed that the union has “supplied incomplete and possibly inaccurate or misleading information” which is in direct contravention to the Trade Union and Recognition Board regulation, which clearly states that this is an offence.
Warning that he has the power to intervene in any trade dispute, the Minister said that he can exercise his powers to appoint an Advisory Committee and “the Committee shall inquire into the matters referred to and shall report thereon and make such recommendations as it may deem expedient, to the Minister.”
He threatened the possible use of compulsory arbitration as a recourse, as has been done in the past few years. On Friday, the union said that it was “encouraged” to note that the Minister’s stance not to tolerate RUSAL’s behaviour.
However, the union expressed worry about measures that the Ministry would have put into place to ensure that RUSAL attend the meeting.
According to the union, it has been a battle for the 50-odd workers sent home.
“Parents have been as their wits end to manage their domestic needs, provide their children with balanced meals, equip them with requisite schools supplies and presently ensure they celebrate the Saviour’s Birth consistent with their traditions.”
GB&GWU claimed that 2009 and 2010 have taken a tremendous toll on bauxite workers, their families and communities- “conditions of life imposed on them not of their making”.
Last week, the union, GB&GWU noted that it refuses to believe that BCGI, a company that is owned by Russian Alumina and the Government of Guyana, can abuse bauxite workers in this manner without the support of the government.
“There is no law in our country that allows a company to de-recognise a union. Though the government has knowledge of this, it has done nothing to ensure the laws are respected for bauxite workers.”
RUSAL has bauxite mining operations at Aroaima and Kwakwani.
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