…workers told Govt approved arbitrary 1% salary increase
Matters have come to a halt at the Russian Aluminium Company, Rusal, with operations shut down and workers protesting an arbitrary one per cent salary increase were asked to leave the company’s premise.
This all occurred on Friday in the company’s Region 10 holdings, when the workers decided to strike because of the meagre one per cent increase – an increase, the workers have been informed, that was sanctioned by the Government of Guyana itself.
It is understood that not only were the dissatisfied employees told not to return to work, they were also threatened with dismissal after they initiated the strike action. However, Under Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana, striking workers are afforded protection.
The company, in a letter dated February 15, 2019, which was seen by this publication noted that management had no alternative but to close the mine area due to the withdrawal of labour by workers attached to the Mining Equipment/Mobile Equipment Maintenance Department.
It noted that work was halted in the Department until further notice. “All affected workers are asked to leave the premises of the company with immediate effect,” the letter went on to state.
This publication understands that there was a meeting between management and employees on Saturday. The workers are reportedly seeking a 15 per cent increase instead. General Secretary of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU), Lincoln Lewis also met with affected workers on Saturday.
During the meeting, issues such as wage increases, living quarters and transportation were reportedly discussed. Regional Vice-Chairman Elroy Adolph in an invited comment said employees were very disturbed over the rate of the increase, but have faith in the Workers Union.
“Nobody is working. All the vehicles parked and I was told they are not working, they put them out the mines. It’s just the supervisors and maybe one or two pump attendants are there, but almost all the workers are off the mines,” Adolph stated, noting that the workers are being backed by the Union.
Sovereignty at stake
Meanwhile, a press release from the GBGWU on Friday noted that the striking workers being threatened with dismissal demonstrates that sovereignty is at risk.
“This is an embarrassment to all Guyanese. The workers’ protest was responded to by management at a meeting held where they were brutally told that they will be fired if they do not return to work within the day; that they can seek redress wherever they want, and to hell with the Government. The operation at the mines and maintenance departments have come to a halt,” the Union said.
According to the Union, Article 147 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana protects the right to strike, noting that in the collective bargaining process, strike is considered an industrial weapon to be used whenever the circumstances become necessary.
“All are reminded that since December 2009, under the noses of successive Governments, BCGI has been engaged in a series of violation of the law and transgressing of the workers’ rights. The management continues to refuse to treat with the recognised Union of the workers’ choice, the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GBGWU),” the Union added.
It went on to state that the Union stands in solidarity with the workers in the exercise of their basic rights. GBGWU called on all Guyanese to understand the struggles faced by these workers, to empathise with them, and to lend them support. According to the Union, the continued violation of the workers threatens multiple family units and the entire communities within which they reside.
The threat to one is a threat to all, the Union stated, noting that injustice “here is an injustice everywhere”. As such, the Union also called on the Government and also on the Opposition to help the workers by intervening in the matter.
“In this period of political division and external tension with our neighbour Venezuela that is facilitating a growing presence of Russia in its ongoing pursuit of geopolitical relevance, is management’s new threats and intensified violation a strategy we must pay attention to,” the Union stated.
More so, it added that in the context of a heated upcoming election and the exploitation of oil and gas resources, the matter is no longer a simple labour issue.
“There seems to be a hidden agenda with potentially dangerous consequences that both the Government and Opposition should take immediate action on. This is about sovereignty and national interest,” the release said.