Aurora Gold Mines Inc. (AGM)’s rank-and-file workers have been unionised under the National Mine Workers Union of Guyana (NMWUG). The union now has bargaining rights for the workers.
This is according to a letter of correspondence from the Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, and the President of NMWUG, Sherwin Downer.
However, Downer has expressed concern, as even though the culmination of the process was announced over a week ago, the union is yet to receive its Certificate of Recognition.
This would put an end to a four year struggle by the union to secure recognition from the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TUR&CB). The matter had made the news in July when the workers put operations at Aurora unit to a halt.
Roughly 250 workers had participated in the strike, which lasted for two days. During the strike, the managers of the mines reportedly turned off the internet connection so that the workers couldn’t reach the 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.
Several persons claiming to be workers have been contacting this publication throughout the past year with claims of workers’ rights abuses. They had refused to go on record for fear of persecution by the administration.
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. Kaieteur News was recently informed that Minister Scott never visited the workers, but he did send a team.
Senior Labour Officer, Prandatt Basdeo, conducted a survey, which was meant to determine whether 40 percent (the minimum qualifying requirement) of workers have selected NMWUG.
Downer told Kaieteur News that, while the letter doesn’t state the percentage of workers represented, he was told by Basdeo that it is 52 percent.
Downer 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 union awaits a certificate from the TUR&CB, and Downer has said that the union looks forward to maintaining a good relationship with the company, in the best interests of the workers.
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