Bauxite Union says Labour Department ‘incompetent’

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The Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) on Friday blasted the Ministry of Social Protection for failing to be stern with RUSAL-owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) which on February 3, 2020, fired 326 Guyanese workers.

General Secretary of the Bauxite union, Lincoln Lewis told the media during a press conference at the Critchlow Labour College that “they [Labour Department]…are incompetent…a bunch of incompetent men who are working for the employer against the State.”

Lewis made reference to the Minister with responsibility for labour Keith Scott, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle and other labour officials.

The Russian company and the union have been embroiled in a wage dispute since 2009.

RUSAL representative Vladimir Permyakov (Left), Social Protection Minister Amna Ally (Centre), Minister responsible for Labour Keith Scott (second right) Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle (Right) at Monday’s meeting

The company, after firing the workers on February 03, removed its foreign workers from Guyana and proceeded to remove mining equipment from its Aroaima, Region 10 mine, prompting the aggrieved workers to block the Berbice River.

RUSAL argued that the industrial action has stymied its operations.

Lewis said the union met with the Ministry and the company for conciliation but the matter needs to go to arbitration.

According to the trade unionist, he requested voluntary arbitration at the meeting and was asked who will pay the arbitrators –a question which he thinks ought not to be asked since it is the responsibility of the two parties to pay for the arbitration.

The Social Protection Ministry at a meeting on February 3 urged the company to reinstate the workers.

Lewis does not believe that the company will reinstate the workers given that RUSAL has commenced removing its mining equipment from the location.

“You know what worries me about this situation, they’re asking RUSAL to re-employ these people. RUSAL carried away [almost] all of the mining equipment; how daft we are? If these people carry away the equipment, you believe they will reemploy those people?”

As the industrial action continued, Police Officers visited the upper Berbice River on Thursday and removed the items used to block the river. This led to an altercation with residents.

Lewis said the union was informed that Police are being mobilized to visit the community at the weekend and as such, the trade unionists will also be in the region.

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