A union is questioning a number of workplace polls that were conducted by a regulator that was deemed by the courts to be operating illegally.
The union is demanding an update of the task force established by Government for bauxite workers of Rusal, for the Upper Berbice operations.
President of the National Mine Workers’ Union of Guyana (NMWUG), Sherwyn Downer, yesterday disclosed that while he is welcoming the announcement of the Ministry of Social Protection on an appointed chairperson – Justice (Ret’d) Claudette La Bennett for the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TUR&CB) – there are more questions than answers.
“I am speaking in light of a judge’s ruling on November 11th 2017 which states that the TUR&CB appointed for the period 2015-2017 was operating illegally for the past two years. As a result of that court ruling, by extension there are serious questions with respect to all the workplace polls conducted by the said board and other business of the board,” Downer said.
He pointed to one of those workplace elections on October 3rd, 2017 elections at the now sanction-hit Bauxite Company of Guyana/Rusal.
The Bauxite and General Workers Union (BGWU) and the NMWUG were the two unions.
According to Downer, BGWU was returned under questionable circumstances.
”We also have another issue. After the announcement of sanctions on Rusal a few months ago, the Guyana government announced a task force to look into workers’ interests. Since May, the task force visited the workers at Rusal locations and made many promises.”
The US and other nations have slapped sanctions on Russian officials, including the principals that own Rusal. The sanctions halted business with the US and Rusal’s products, effectively affecting Guyana.
Rusal’s shippers, Oldendorff Carriers, had announced a pullout.
According to the union official, the workers were only visited on Thursday, August 9th, by union leader, and a member of the task force, Lincoln Lewis.
Downer said workers are claiming that they were told that the task force was not receiving funding for its work.
”Whether this is true or not about funding, the National Mine Workers’ Union continues to take note of the lies to the workers at Rusal.”
The union leader also called on Government to fast track a duly constituted TUR&CB.
”NMWUG mourns the death of the union board and calls for the establishing of a Labour Court. Our union is also calling on the Government to clarify whether the issue of funding for the government-appointed task force is true or not.”
Downer noted that since 2009, the workers at Rusal have been without a union, as they remain voiceless and powerless to bring about changes that are urgently needed, including in the working conditions.
He pointed out that the recent announcement by Finance Minister Winston Jordan that bauxite has recorded its highest production and has improved since 2013, should raise questions about where are the corresponding success stories of the bauxite workers.
“This is unfair and it’s not right for the workers to be without a union or union representation. The absence of the subject Minister with responsibility for Labour, Social Protection Minister, Keith Scott, on the task force, does not escape the eyes of our union. We hope that an explanation will be forthcoming for his absence on the all-important government-appointed task force.”
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