Bauxite Union calls for arbitration to settle decade-long wage dispute with RUSAL

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See full statement from President of the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU), Lincoln Lewis:

Response is being made to reported comments made by RUSAL company representative Vladimir Permyakov to the media yesterday after the Department of Labour met with the representatives of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI).

The conflict with RUSAL/BCGI is not about the blocking of the Berbice River. Since the company now finds it convenient to speak about the Laws of Guyana regarding Guyana national waters we take this opportunity to remind them that the Constitution of Guyana also speaks about the sovereignty of our nation and the Laws of Guyana which they have been in violation of for over a decade.  What is evident from this message while RUSAL is not prepared to honour the Laws of Guyana they are prepared to turn the Government of Guyana against the workers of Guyana.

What they are intended to do now is play another government agency against the workers of Guyana because the unblocking of the River is not the responsibility of the Department of Labour. RUSAL has successfully over the years by some measure rendered the Department of Labour ineffective in dealing with them but they are seeking to have another government department attend to their grievance.

The Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) calls for arbitration. NOW! Workers are prepared to return to work under these undermentioned conditions which were communicated to the company and Department of Labour, repeatedly:-

  1. The recall of all (288) workers laid off on 23rdand 30thJanuary and this must be without loss of pay or service given that the acts of sending them off violate Section 12 of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act;
  2. Compensation for the two employees who suffered from electrical shocks while in the course of duty and were left to fend their way to the Kwakawni hospital where they were subsequently admitted and were not paid for the time they were hospitalised and off the job; and
  3. Appointment of Arbitration Tribunal to resolve wages and salaries grievance.

GB&GWU calls for a declaration of an impasse to be followed immediately by arbitration. The Union calls also on the Guyanese community, our trade unions comrades and the media to rally around bauxite workers in exposing and fighting the injustices meted out to them.  The violations of our laws and sovereignty by BCGI should not be facilitated by those who are paid with taxpayers’ money, and who conveniently know the law.

Note…after ten years and with no confidence that the Russian managed company (BCGI) can be trusted by its words there is now recognition that lawlessness is being facilitated by operatives of this government which to date has had equal amount of time as its predecessor to address this situation and has to date failed to do so in entirety. GB& BWU is forced therefore to recognise the actions of the frustrated persons to block the river as an act of desperation to bring about social justice when all legal and procedural avenues have been stymied by inaction, foot-dragging and misrepresentation of advice on best practices.

The impasse must end! The Grievance Procedures and the Law of Guyana must be allowed to work in the interest of all concern.

Also, this opportunity is taken to remind Permyakov it is often through extreme vigilance change comes. Changes in the world don’t always come from talking to people across the table alone but change comes in many instances when force was matched equally with force. Workers tried all measure of peaceful conflict resolution and they are being blocked from this by RUSAL which appears to be seeking benefit from national confrontation.

He is reminded of the Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution which Russians hold in high esteem. And whereas he thinks the company cannot negotiate “with a gun to your head,” the reality is there are times in the world when nothing has been resolved unless people stand on firm ground to make change. Guyana too has a proud history and legacy of struggles and none will take from us what we took hundreds of years to achieve, i.e. human rights and a nation state!

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