The Government will go to the “lengths” and will make a “decision” regarding the operations of Russian bauxite giant RUSAL in Guyana, Amna Ally, the Minister of Social Protection said Wednesday morning, revealing that officials of the company “intercepted” her when she flew into the mines to meet with workers.
“I do not think we can tolerate…companies coming in to partner with Guyana and operate in this fashion,” Ally declared at a meeting with representatives of unions looking to represent the workers employed with the company.
Minister Ally’s statement came after a tense meeting Tuesday with company officials who bluntly told her that they will not reinstate the 61 workers who were dismissed for protesting a one per cent increase in wages. Ally said that 30 other workers were also issued with “no work” letters and their jobs are “threatened.”
At a first meeting with officials of the company last Thursday, Ally said they [RUSAL] were “disposed” to reinstating the workers and promised to get back to the Government. But the company did not, and Ally Tuesday told her Labour Minister Keith Scott to make contact with the company but he was unable to do so.
Ally was then forced to summon the company officials to a meeting and to get an update from them.
“I was not happy with their response,” said Ally, noting that the officials of the company were mainly concerned about discussing conditions for work “with no intention to reinstate” the workers.
The company officials countered their arguments with claims that they were “dismantling things” and that the operations are not profitable.
Ally dismissed all of that as being “really ridiculous.”
RUSAL’s local subsidiary operates the bauxite mines in the Berbice River and employs about 540 workers. RUSAL founded a local subsidiary here in 2004 and two years later acquired the assets of the Aroaima Mining company in an agreement with the government.
The company was given licences to develop bauxite deposit groups along Linden, Kwakwani and Ituni.
RUSAL owns a 90% stake in the company and the remaining 10% belongs to the Guyana Government. The annual production capacity is 2.3 million tonnes a year.
As the industrial dispute boiled over, Ally and other Government Ministers last Thursday met with company officials Vladimir Permyakov, the Company Representative in Guyana, and Sergey Kostyuk, Director of Alumina and Bauxite Department at RUSAL.
The following day, Ally decided to into the mines to meet with workers at Maple Town in Aroaima, where Ally said she was confronted by the very two men from RUSAL.
“…as soon as I came off the plane I was intercepted by the very two people, who in my view, tried to delay me from going in to meet with the workers,” All stated.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, Minister Ally Wednesday morning met with representatives of two unions, namely the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).
There, she reiterated that the Government did not approve of RUSAL’s actions.
“I made it very clear that it is unacceptable, it is unthinkable, it is unreasonable,” Ally stated.
The Government wants RUSAL to recognize the Bauxite union to negotiate for workers and to reinstate the workers and then discuss future conditions of work.
The company has told the Government that all workers, regardless of their rank, are paid a monthly income of $259, 000. Ally has demanded to see the employment contract with workers.
President of the GBGWU, Lincoln Lewis, said there is a need for RUSAL’s mining license to be examined and for the committee promised by the Government to examine the bauxite industry.