The application process for the workers of Guyana Goldfields’ Aurora Gold Mines Incorporated (AGM) to be unionised is well underway, and has seen about 300 workers being submitted to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TUR&CB) who have selected the National Mine Workers’ Union of Guyana (NMWUG) to be the bargaining union for their interests.
Minister of Labour, Keith Scott, told Kaieteur News that consequent to his visit to the mines, Government would have to conduct a poll to determine the choice of union of the workers. A worker informed this publication yesterday that the workers had indicated overwhelmingly the union of their choice, and so a poll would no longer be necessary.
NMWUG President, Sherwin Downer, said that NMWUG is the only union that is vying to represent the workers, and that the union made its submissions on Friday last, including its constitution.
Senior Labour Officer, Prandatt Basdeo, is expected to conduct a survey, determining whether 40 percent (the minimum qualifying requirement) of workers have selected NMWUG.
Downer said that so far, the union’s application to the board has been accepted, and that by Tuesday, it should be revealed whether the union secured more than 40 percent of the vote.
The company is also expected to submit, in-keeping Section 18 of the Trade Union Recognition Act, a copy of the payroll with the names and designation for the rank-and-file workers.
The workers expected to be unionised number in excess of 600.
While the process is not over, Downer, who is confident that there will be no hiccups, told this publication that NMWUG is ready to get to work to improve the working conditions of the rank-and-file workers.
Downer said that the company has attempted to periodically placate its workers by granting bonuses. Recently, after the last strike ended, the company decided to give workers a quarterly 7.6 percent bonus. Noted by the union President is that the workers are due for an increase.
He said that the union will also be looking at advocating for an improvement to the workers’ risk allowances.
The rank-and-file workers at Aurora’s mines and mechanical division had begun to strike earlier this month, due to what they considered workers’ rights abuses.
Roughly 250 workers participated in the strike, which lasted for two days. During the ordeal, the managers of the mines reportedly turned off the internet connection so that the workers couldn’t reach the general public. Workers protested in the rain, and reported that the administration had even refused to feed them on one day, save for a single meal.
Guyana Goldfields had released a statement shortly after, announcing that they had suspended work until a solution could be reached for the workers’ grievances.
The Labour Department was forced to meet swiftly with a team of workers to hear their concerns, after which Minister Scott told Kaieteur News that the workers agreed to go back to work, on the condition that their request for union representation is expedited.
Those negotiations included Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, and Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle.
The workers had told Kaieteur News that Minister Scott promised to visit the mines to have a better understanding of what they are facing, and so he did. Scott said that the Ministry’s efforts will consider all issues being faced at all of AGM’s units.
The Labour Department’s discussions with the union ended with Government ensuring that none of the workers would be fired, and that the application for the workers to be unionised would be expedited.
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