Wage negotiations between Russian-owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) and the workers’ union have stalled with the matter likely heading for arbitration.
The company is only willing to talk about increases for 2019.
However, according to General Secretary of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), Lincoln Lewis, the talks are supposed to be for increases of 2018 and 2019 and involving negotiations for the period 2009-2018.
On Tuesday, the company, which has a running history of clashes with the union, said it is not prepared to talk anything except this year’s increase.
According to Lincoln, it is unlikely that the parties will be meeting again under the current format.
He said that workers are gunning for arbitration to settle the matter once and for all.
The trade unionist made the statement Tuesday, while he was a guest on Kaieteur Radio.
He later briefed workers who are located between Aroaima and Kurubuka, in the Upper Berbice River area, Region 10.
He disclosed that workers will be briefed by its union representatives as early as today on the negotiations.
One of the areas of negotiations is the raising of pay to meet that of Bosai Minerals, a Chinese company which operates in Linden.
That company is reportedly paid almost 40 percent more than Rusal workers.
“We are saying we want parity in the pay and that is a sticking point,” Lewis explained.
“Rusal has to pay. The workers said that they are prepared to go the distance.”
The situation would bring back memories of the standoff earlier this year when workers were fired, forcing a number of them to hunker down at Aroaima, a community where sleeping quarters are located.
For five weeks, the workers refused to budge, cooking for themselves and backed by residents of the nearby community.
It has been the story with Rusal since they came here in the mid-2000s.
With investors need, the administration of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, under then president, Bharrat Jagdeo, had struck a deal with Rusal, one of the biggest bauxite companies in the world to take over the Aroaima and Kwakwani operations.
However, despite the people of Guyana owning 10 percent, there were no dividends paid by the BCGI, the local subsidiary of Rusal which is managing the operations.
The company has not declared profits since it came.
It has refused to meet with the unions and even was a no-show to Department of Labour meetings on a number of occasions.
Lewis said Tuesday he is investigating rumors that the company is shipping out its big equipment, including trucks, a sign that something is going on.
Earlier this year, in March, during the five-week standoff to force BCGI to reinstate over 90 fired workers, an agreement on the terms of resumption was signed.
The agreement resulted in the unblocking of the Berbice River at Kwakwani by workers, whose action had forced vessels to moor for weeks.
It had held up timber and bauxite shipments.
The standoff also brought the spotlight down on Rusal and its tax and other concessions.
It received billions of dollars of concessions during its decade and half stay in the Upper Berbice area, Region Ten.
In mid-February, workers of Rusal’s Kurubuka mines downed tools and asked to meet management after seeing a one percent increased to their pay.
However, they were ordered to return to work.
Ninety-one workers who downed tools had their services terminated by Rusal, sparking a standoff where workers refused orders to leave the housing quarters in Aroaima.
The company had been under the microscope for similarly firing 57 workers in 2009.
Those workers were never reinstated.
Until now, Government has largely left the company alone, fearing a possible pullout.
Government had sent in teams, including ministers, and even invited the company’s representatives to meet its labour officials to diffuse the matter.
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