Nov 29, 2017 News
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) is calling on Government to take note of the delay by Russian-owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) to pay its workers tax-free overtime.
The union body said that the decision was taken since last year but the bauxite company, which has operations in Kurubuka and Aroaima, Region Ten, has been dragging its foot. They have now been given an ultimatum of paying up by tomorrow or face a strike.
“Bauxite workers fought for and achieved this benefit during the Desmond Hoyte Government, but it was since taken away by the Bharrat Jagdeo Government, even though it was retained in the sugar industry. The fact that the David Granger/Moses Nagamootoo Government has agreed to returning the benefit to the bauxite workers marks a progressive step to restore equity in treatment for workers in the productive sector,” GTUC’s General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis disclosed.
More than 40 workers of BCGI recently signed a letter addressed to the management, calling for this benefit to be made payable November 30th or they would proceed on strike action. Copies of this letter were sent to the media, Ministry of Social Protection, and their union, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU).
“GTUC calls on BCGI management to honour Government’s decision, and to meet with the workers’ representative. Arriving from the poll held on October 3rd which saw the GB&GWU securing the workers’ confidence by landslide, the union wrote management, outlining a menu of measures, and seeking engagement. GTUC has been advised no response has been had to date.”
According to Lewis, Government can make investments attractive without having to see the transgressing of citizens/workers’ rights and the violating of the Constitution and Laws of Guyana.
“GTUC calls on Government to recognise the workers’ grievance with this company, which it has part ownership of. BCGI’s contempt cuts against the grain of law and order, which Government is the custodian of. The fact that Minister (in charge of labour) Keith Scott wrote management earlier this month advising mechanisms be put in place to return taxes deducted on overtime and all premium hours worked with effect from 1st October 2016, send a strong signal that BCGI is above Government and the laws of the land.”
“Who or what is empowering BCGI management to feel it can treat workers like this? It seems as though this company has its tentacles on Guyana and what does this say for the Guyanese people. GTUC calls on the Government to honour the Constitution that establishes sovereignty over nation and its workers, and hold BCGI accountable for its deviant industrial relations practices that continue to infringe the laws of the land.”
GTUC said that there is something troubling with Guyana’s relationship with BCGI that is allowing successive governments to allow the transgressing of the rights of Guyanese labour and the violating of the laws.
“Guyanese need to take note. Next month will mark eight years of BCGI being allowed to flagrantly violate Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act by its refusal to treat with the GB&GWU, as required by law. This has been the parent company RUSAL’s behaviour wherever it does business around the world unless the host country government stands up to it.”
In light of what Guyanese are witnessing, GTUC said it is calling for the Government of Guyana to ensure any future foreign investment has ensconced ironclad clauses that would respect workers’ rights and the laws of the land.
“What is happening with BCGI is encouraging lawlessness in our society. Lawlessness and crime are not only at the grassroots level, where this class of people will be held accountable, but when organisations and people in power and positions are allowed to break the law and transgress the rights of the workers, this is more dangerous for the well-being of the society.”
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