Bauxite workers of the Russian-owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) yesterday blocked the main road linking Kwakwani, Berbice River, and Linden, even as a key meeting between management and labour officials did little to change the situation.
In Region 10, workers used logs and tyres to block the Kwakwani road which leads to the riverfront area at the Berbice River.
The workers are continuing, also, to stay in the housing area of Mapletown but are warned not to venture to the mine site area at Kurubuka.
They were ordered to leave over the weekend with the company instructing its kitchen to stop cooking.
Yesterday, BCGI’s senior representative, Vladimir Permyakov, was blunt. The workers had had their chance to stop striking and return to work.
Their future is not now assured as the company could give no commitments that the termination letters will be withdrawn from those 60 workers- one worker has returned to work, he said.
Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, was tight-lipped on any progress but said he has met with the union and now with management. There will be another meeting soon with the two.
As of now, as far as the company is concerned, the workers remain fired.
BCGI, a subsidiary of Russian aluminium giant, Rusal, has hired former Chief Labour Officer, Mohamed Akeel, to advise them. The company believes that it has done no wrong in sacking the workers who took strike actions.
Yesterday, Minister with responsibility for Labour, Keith Scott, was not part of the meeting that involved Permyakov, Personnel Manager, Mikhail Krupnenin, and Akeel.
Meeting with them was Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle.
At the end of the meeting at the Brickdam office of the Department of Labour, Permyakov noted that the Rusal operations in Region Ten demands huge investment, technical engineering skills, know-how and skilled employees.
He said that the company is “unhappy” with the refusal of 60 workers to go to work, to perform their duties and abide by their own contractual obligations.
“I am not happy today at all…not happy since last Friday morning after this big group of workers refuse to go to work. My colleagues met with this group of workers and sincerely expressed their wish for workers to go back to work. We are not happy and I feel sorry.”
The official said that workers were given the opportunity to resume their work Friday…now it is Tuesday- the fifth day without work.
“We had very open and frank interaction with Ministry of Social Protection. I hope we shall find a solution…that we shall find a compromise…”
Permyakov said that workers breached their contracts by being absent from work.
“Do you believe that our professional managers would terminate somebody without consulting contracts, rules and company limitations? I don’t think so.”
Asked about the possibilities of rehiring those sacked workers, he could not say.
“It depends on some compromising decision. I want to be honest not to promise any golden rivers. I am very sorry that the situation happened and nobody from the group said guys lets go back to work and meet the managers and explain our concerns or demands.”
According to the spokesman, strike is the worst form… It’s conflict.
“…If one shift is not complete…if one group is absent the entire process becomes dangerous. It’s a matter of occupational safety if team of crusher or in the mines is not complete…60 people… it’s a breach of the technological chain.”
Permyakov insisted that the one percent pay increase is a normal indexing that workers would have been seeing for a number of years now…It is tied to the inflation.
For Rusal, everything depends on its production costs.
He pointed to the cost of getting to the bauxite in Region Ten, with the material deep in the earth. “To excavate one million tonnes of bauxite, our team has to move out four million tonnes of overburden. We are spending lots of diesel but in Guyana we have worked for 14 years. All our workers have decent social package. They’re not paid in such grey and black manner.
“Our company is financially audited every year. We are not profitable but we are able to maintain 500 contractors every year…plus 00 contractors in the outlying areas.”
Permyakov pointed out also that the company is providing four meals daily, and even subsidizing lights and cooking gas.
With regards to the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union, the company yesterday said that it does not recognize the union as the process used to choose them was flawed.
Meanwhile, Rusal, in a separate statement, said that the workers had not given any strike notice. No conciliation procedure had been followed or proposed, he Russians said.
“As a result BCGI’s operations have been seriously threatened.”
At the moment, Rusal said, BCGI has suspended the mining department operations with the mining vehicles and equipment transferred to the storage and put under security.
“Other departments of BCGI are operating in a regular mode. However, BCGI will be forced to consider shutting down operations should the situation persist. Moreover, BCGI’s management will take appropriate disciplinary measures, in compliance with local laws, against the workers absent from workplace with no legal reason.”
Separately, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), was highly critical of the decision by Rusal to fire the 61.
“They, like all workers, are seeking better pay and working conditions especially taking account of the circumstances of life now-a-days. The workers are rightly demanding that their rights to Collective Bargaining be respected and have seen their principled position met with a most distasteful, and arguably illegal, response by the foreign-owned company.”
FITUG said that it sees the high-handed approach by the BCGI as grossly disrespectful to workers, the laws, and all Guyanese.
Workers took strike actions last week, saying that they are objecting by a unilateral decision by the company to pay a one percent increase.
The workers complained of workers conditions and said that the company is not recognizing its union.
They were later told by management to evacuate the mines area.
In 2009, BCGI had ended up in the news also with the sacking of 50-plus workers, including supervisors who were striking for better conditions and pay.
That matter has never been resolved.
There has been the accusation that consecutive governments have steered clear away from taking actions against Rusal, for one reason or the other.
May 28, 2020Says managerial, analytical & listening skills key to Captaincy By Sean Devers Guyana and West Indies cricketer Leon Johnson hails from the Amerindian Village of Aratac in Santa Mission, a...
May 28, 2020
May 28, 2020
May 27, 2020
May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020
Whenever a political party loses an election, there are always implications for the leaders of that party. The APNU and... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Caribbean countries are, once again, being placed in a difficult position as they try to navigate... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]