– union says it has lost confidence in Labour Minister
Bauxite workers in the Upper Berbice area have refused to unblock the river despite being told by the Russian management that fuel is running low.
Yesterday, management of RUSAL/Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) met with workers telling them there is only enough fuel to last for three or four days.
After that the water and power supply to both Kurubuka and Aroaima will be cut.
The management wants the workers to remove the barricade across the Berbice River so that it can send vessels, reportedly loaded with bauxite, out for fuel.
However, the workers are not buying that.
They want the company to engage directly with their union…the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and labour officials and not with them.
There is a current standoff between the company and workers after 142 employees were sent home mid-last week because of a fuel shortage, the company claimed.
RUSAL/BCGI claimed that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has not green-lighted its duty fuel concessions and as such, it has to reduce operations.
The layoffs triggered a standoff, with workers blocking the river, which is used to transport bauxite.
Yesterday, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, said that the matter is being handled by the Labour Department with Government paying close attention.
The union also yesterday flayed Minister of Labour, Keith Scott, in which he is described as having a meeting with the company and the union to iron out the difficulties.
According to the union, it is unaware that the unions met with Scott on the matter.
“Reference the release by Department of Public information (DPI) captioned, “Labour Department working to have Rusal workers reinstated” (24th January 2020) circulated widely in various media, the public is hereby advised the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) has had no such meeting with Minister Keith Scott and is dumbfounded at this deceptive claim clearly attributed to the Minister in the DPI release.”
The union in its statement, said other persons were at a meeting, not Scott though.
“Without fear of contradiction, the public is hereby notified that whereas a meeting was held on Thursday 23rd January with representatives of Labour, the GB&GWU and management of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI), and whereas said meeting was chaired by Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, of the Department of Labour, Minister Scott did not even have an invisible presence that was felt. He did not even make a brief entrance. “
The union said that if indeed the DPI report is accurate in stating Minister Scott “disclosed that he along with Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, met with representatives [of the union and Management at that meeting] on Thursday” then the Minister is involved in serious misrepresentations that raises question as to his trustworthiness and motive.
“This is not the first incident of deception and mistrust around the issues of labour in particular those
relating to bauxite workers that have been experienced with Minister Scott and his department,” the union said.
“This is however the most blatant and disreputable. It is more so, since said claim can be easily disproved by those in attendance and the register of attendance at the Department of Labour. This act begs the question of the Minister’s desperation or confidence that he can successfully lie and have his lie circulated via the media.
“As a consequence, GB&GWU is declaring publicly that it has lost all confidence in Minister Scott’s management of this labour dispute.”
According to the union, it is calling on the Government of Guyana through the Department of Labour to declare a deadlock on further negotiations between BCGI and GB&GWU.
“This will give the Union the opportunity to request arbitration proceedings be put in place as prescribed under the Grievance Procedure by the two parties. Minister Scott has constantly resisted bringing closure to this issue at conciliation preferring to have it languishing, whilst misleading the senior Minister, and his government and now the people of Guyana.”
The union pointed out that dispute with the Russian-controlled company is more than a decade outstanding “and it is appropriate to say that outside of the progress gained mainly last year through the stern grit of Minister Amna Ally in bringing the management of BCGI to the bargaining table (to respect the Union as the recognised workers’ representative) no other meaningful achievements have been made under Minister Scott’s sole oversight.”
The union said it is of the strong view that Minister Scott has also not demonstrated he has the capacity, political, experiential, or labour driven perspectives to successfully manage the department he leads.
“He has certainly not in the case of the bauxite and gold workers demonstrated ministerial trustworthiness.”
RUSAL is one of the biggest bauxite companies in the world but has a sordid history of labour relations in Guyana.
In 2009, it sacked over 50 workers for striking for better conditions in its Region Ten mines.
Last year, workers forced a month-long standoff, blocking the Berbice River, before Government stepped in and brokered an uneasy resumption.
With elections five weeks away, the issue is putting to test the Coalition’s government capacity to deal with investors, at a time also when Guyana has started oil production as well.
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