By Isanella Patoir
The Russian Bauxite Company (RUSAL) after ten years recognised the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) as the official representative for workers, who have still blocked the Berbice River, preventing the smooth flow of operations for the company.
RUSAL has also agreed to have bilateral meetings with the Union starting on Friday so that its operations can return to normalcy.
This was announced after a meeting with the Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle, the Bauxite Union and RUSAL’s Management on Tuesday at the Department of Labour, Brickdam Georgetown.
A dispute with 61 workers and the bauxite company started on February 15, when the workers protested a one per cent increase in their wages and salaries. The 61 workers were subsequently fired by the company and have been protesting since.
RUSAL had refused to recognise the union and also refused to attend meetings with the Labour Department.
But even with this development, the workers are continuing their protest action by blocking the Berbice River, preventing the passage of RUSAL’s barges, until there is an amicable solution to the issue.
President of the Bauxite Union Lincoln Lewis told the media Tuesday that the Union is looking for a way forward with the company.
“The company has made it clear that this is the recognized union and we are going to be working together,” Lewis told reporters after the meeting Tuesday morning.
“The Union shall submit to the company by tomorrow [Wednesday] its list that it would like to form part of the discussions and the company will submit to the union what it considers to be important for the discussions,” Lewis said.
The establishment of an occupation and safety committee will also be part of the discussions.
The Union President said the rehiring of the fired workers will definitely be part of the discussions as the company is open to dialogue with the union.
RUSAL had already informed Government that it has no intentions to rehire the fired employees.
According to Lewis, the discussions with the company will establish trust and confidence in building a relationship with the company.
“We have to work together in the interest of workers, in the interest of the company, in the interest of the nation,” he said.
He said RUSAL’s recognition of the Union is the result of the “guys on the ground Mr. Velosa and Mr. Junior…what happened here was made by those workers lead by those guys.”
Lewis said, “It can be seen as rebirth of the militancy of the trade union.”
He assured that the Union will keep the Labour Department updated on its discussions with RUSAL.
In addition to the 61 workers, RUSAL fired 30 more employees late last month. RUSAL told the Government that all workers, regardless of their rank, are paid a monthly income of $259,000.
RUSAL owns 90% of the Bauxite Company of Guyana and was given licences to develop bauxite deposit groups along Linden, Kwakwani and Ituni.
RUSAL has since closed down parts of its operations as a result of the protest.