Bauxite Workers, Bauxite Union and Government
The Bauxite workers have been and are being treated in a crude and crass manner by the global aluminum giant Rusal. The Rusal corporation is the 90% owner of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI). The workers are also being underserved by the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) and the Government of Guyana. Workers have resorted to blocking the Berbice River to prevent the shipping of bauxite ore extracted by Rusal. This action has not only affected the shipping of bauxite, but also the logging industry, which is the second largest economic sector in Region 10, causing further decline in the business ecosystem.
The abandonment of the Guyanese employees to the vagaries of Rusal by the Government of Guyana on the cusp of the March 2020 General and National Elections would not have occurred if Guyana had obtained a fair deal with the Exxon-led Consortium. A fair deal with Exxon would have allowed the government to provide employment opportunities connected to the umpteen promises and policies to Region 10, especially in infrastructural development, and the many other job creating promises that have not been implemented.
With all the impressive plans and policies APNU-AFC has had for Region 10 in their 2015 manifesto and their even more inspiring promises, old and new, now shown in full gloss in their February 2020 Manifesto, amidst the plethora of flags and multiple jingles; a reasonable person would think that job opportunities are aplenty for residents of Region 10, but this is clearly not the case. RUSAL employees in Guyana are treated like expendables, laid off today for an unknown and indeterminable period, some terminated, salaried workers no longer, families devastated and community business activities declining, with adverse economic and social consequences.
Consider that 85% of voters in Region 10 supported the ruling Coalition in the 2015 General and Regional Elections, THE Coalition PNC is unable to deal condignly with RUSAL, a company that treats its local bauxite workers, their union, the Guyana Revenue Authority and Government officials with utter disrespect and disdain.
It is a sad point in our history, when the bauxite workers from Region 10 and Guyanese as a whole, should be enjoying the bountiful benefits that ought to have accrued to us from the eight billion barrels of oil discovered in our off-shore waters and the billions of United States dollars in signing bonuses that have seeming been waived for the Stabroek, Canje, Orinduik, and Kaieteur Oil blocks, among others, instead of benefiting from the global oil discovery of this century, our bauxite workers have to resort to blocking the Berbice River in order to be given an opportunity to work and put food on the table.
Global Witness has already shown that using a very conservative projection US$55 Billion was forfeited by our Government representatives over a 40-year period or averaging US$1.375 Billion per year, an amount almost equivalent to our 2019 National Budget of GY$300 billion.
Leadership of GBGWU has claimed that the Junior Minister of Social Protection is incompetent, an easy target. The Junior Minister of The Ministry of Social Protection is a member of the PNC-led coalition of parties and leader of the National Front Alliance, which is not known for having numerous supporters. The criticism from the Union is couched in a manner so as not to express disquiet with the Senior Minister of Social Protection and the leadership of the PNC-led coalition.
In Guyana’s racialised partisan politics, our unions are forced into the divisive structure of the major parties; the union’s priorities are mostly compromised, as it is not the workers’ interest that takes precedence, but instead the determining point of the Unions’ representation and conduct is the political party that the workers support, not the workers. Thus, we have unions that are acquiescent and toothless, like an animal that growls with much sound and fury while little demands are made to their political overlords that will effectively represent and benefit the workers.
Blaming the Junior Minister of Social Protection is like blaming the Prime Minister; none of these individuals sits at the decision-making table of the PNC-led coalition.
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