Feb 21, 2014 News
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), yesterday met with Leader of the Political Opposition, Brigadier (rtd), David Granger, and used the opportunity to urge the tying of support of the anti-money laundering Bill, to that of good governance, as well as the outstanding labour issues related to RUSAL.
General Secretary Lincoln Lewis, during an interview with this publication following his meeting with Granger, said that “the GTUC wants the Bill to be passed but while we want this, the issue of governance has to be addressed, there must be a condition of passing of the Bill, the issue of governance must be a condition on the passing of the Bill.”
According to Lewis, it is the belief of the trade union body that the non-resolution of the RUSAL matter is a reflection of the quality of governance that has been elected.
“We can’t have on the statute, laws that we’re violating with impunity, yet at the same time we want to now pass new laws when we don’t have the will to do so.”
Lewis said that they believe that there is a nexus between the passing of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill and the question of the non-resolution of the issue at RUSAL.
He said the Bill is going to be talking about protecting the rights, and “protecting rules of the game as it relates to finance and those types of operations”.
“We believe that the question before us at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI, which is owned by RUSAL) is one of people’s rights being transgressed and the laws of the land being violated”
According to Lewis, APNU’s leadership did not commit to lending their support to the GTUC call.
“What we have said is that APNU has a responsibility to the society to protect the people whose rights are being transgressed everyday…APNU has a responsibility to uphold the laws that are being violated by foreign nationals.”
According to Lewis, “you cannot ask Guyanese to operate within the parameters of the law but yet at the same time you are aiding and abetting in anyway the violation of the laws by foreign nationals.”
He said that the GTUC is not at all dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting, given that the opposition leader made it clear that he needs to consult with his colleagues.
“He did not say he is against it and rightly so, what he did was state that he supports the principle.”
Lewis reported that Granger did concede that it is the matter that has been outstanding for a long time and must be resolved.
He also disclosed his intention to meet with all of the various agencies that have been calling for the support of the Bill, in order to lobby them to stand behind the union’s position of tying support to ‘good governance’ and the RUSAL debacle.
According to Lewis, if those agencies believe so much in rights and they want laws, then those same agencies must be prepared to join GTUC seeing that the laws already on statutes be adhered to.
“We are prepared to engage them because if they believe in honouring laws, putting laws in place, they must be equally prepared to make sure that statues are being upheld.”
Meanwhile, the Union yesterday also formally disseminated a statement on the meeting which they said was on a matter of national security.
It said that the GTUC desires resolution to the more than four –year-old dispute, between the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and BCGI as a prerequisite for the passage of the Bill.
BCGI is majority owned by Russian Aluminium (RUSAL) with the Government of Guyana as the minority shareholder, operating at Kwakwani and Aroaima in the Berbice River.
“The time is long past for this issue of BCGI violation of workers’ rights to be resolved and it is time for the Leader of the Opposition and political parties to stand up and represent this matter which transcends Labour and violates Guyanese sovereignty and national interest.”
According to the GTUC, “the Opposition parties as the government in waiting, must demonstrate to this nation that they are cognizant of the parameters of sovereignty and prepared to protect even the least violation…BCGI’s continued violation of Guyanese workers is a matter of national interest and sovereignty.”
“The GTUC can say without fear of contradiction under the leadership of Forbes Burnham, Cheddi Jagan, Desmond Hoyte and Janet Jagan – in opposition or government, the BCGI matter would not have lingered this long.”
The GTUC stated that the majority of RUSAL’s shares are owned by three oligarchs, namely Roman Abramovich, Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin.
Public information informs that Deripaska, CEO of RUSAL, was part of the 1990s Russian aluminium industry bloody wars for control. It is reported that the “‘aluminium wars’, [speak to] warring factions and organised crime groups struggle for control of Russia’s immense smelters”
GTUC further reported that public information tells of Deripaska proximity to acts of international financial impropriety, including money laundering, organised crime and extortion, and it must be said the accused safeguarded his right to be heard and redress on these allegations, rights denied bauxite workers;
Further additional public information reports in 2008 the U.S denied Deripaska a visa over alleged criminal association.
In July 2012, Deripaska avoided legal proceedings in the London High Court on charge of his stake in RUSAL by reaching an out-of-court settlement;
In its call to Granger, the GTUC says that the nexus and gravity of the Bill and BCGI dispute require serious and immediate attention.
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