Oct 26, 2019 News
Workers of bauxite industry, in the Upper Berbice area, Region 10, have asked to meet with Government amid news that their employer appeared to be scaling down operations.
This development comes as the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) recently disclosed that negotiations for wage increases and a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) have stalled after the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) refused to discuss 2018 increases as well as for the period 2009-2018.
The talks are likely now heading for arbitration, with General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis, informing workers this past week.
On Friday, GB&GWU’s Branch Secretary, Leslie Junor, wrote Amna Ally, the Minister of Social Protection and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman for an urgent meeting.
According to Junor in his letter, since the terms of resumption was signed between BCGI and the union back in March, bringing to an end weeks of standoff, negotiations commenced for a new CLA which includes the issue of increased wages and salaries.
“As the negotiations prolong (ed) and intensified we are observing a number of strange actions by BCGI and this includes the stripping of trucks, loading them on barges and transporting same from the operation at Aroaima.”
According to Junor, the union has objections as it is “conscious” that these pieces of equipment were acquired through significant concessions and sacrifices by the people of this country.
Junor, in his invitation, said that the issue requires political action.
“We shall be pleased if we can agree on a convenient time when we can mobilize enough workers to meet with you,” he said in the letter to the two ministers.
The letter was copied to the union’s president, Leslie Gonsalves and General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis.
On Tuesday, Lewis, the General Secretary of the union disclosed that conciliation talks at the Department of Labour for the more than 300 workers, are going nowhere.
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 reportedly pays 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 meet
ings on a number of occasions.
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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