The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) stands firmly in solidarity with employees of the Russian Aluminium company (RUSAL), and their Union, the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GBGWU) in their struggle for fair and decent pay, and the employer’s disrespect for the laws of Guyana.
The Collective Labour Agreement between the GBGWU and RUSAL allows for discussions on any policy which will alter the conditions of service for employees. It also enjoins the employer to discuss with the Labour Department of the Social Protection Ministry, any changes in workers’ conditions of service.
The Collective Labour Agreement is enshrined in Article 147 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana. Guyana has also ratified ILO Convention 98 which deals with Collective Bargaining. Furthermore, the Trade Union Recognition Act of 1997, Section 23-1 stated pellucidly that where an employee’s organisation is recognised, management must meet with the employees’ representative in good faith to discuss conditions of service of the employee.
Section 23-3 of the said Act states that where the employer fails to meet with the employee’s representative, this constitutes an offence and that for every additional day that they fail to meet, a fine is imposed. RUSAL, in arbitrarily imposing a one per cent increase, changed the conditions of service of the employees and this is a blatant disrespect to the employees’ representative and total disregard for the laws of Guyana.
This flagrant disregard and infringement on workers’ rights led to their protesting, and RUSAL responded by adding ‘salt to the wounds’ with the dismissal of 61 workers, ejection of employees and their families from their living quarters, and refusing to prepare meals, in an effort to break the workers’ spirit. This is a method used by combatant forces and violates a fundamental international principle of humanitarianism which prohibits the starvation of civilians. The move by RUSAL can be viewed as contempt and disdain towards the workers in their fight for a living wage. This reprehensive and illegal conduct is in violation of Article 147-2 of Guyana’s Constitution which gives the employees the right to strike. The right to strike is also mentioned in ILO Convention 87, a fundamental right of workers and of their organisations and must be protected and respected at all cost!
This action by RUSAL flies in the face of all decency and shows blatant disrespect for the people and laws of Guyana more so at a time when the country is celebrating its 49th Republic Anniversary.
The Guyana Public Service Union strongly condemns this action by RUSAL and its labour advisor for disrespecting and violating the workers’ rights and breaching the laws of Guyana. The GPSU calls on the Social Protection Ministry to enforce the laws immediately by taking the necessary legal action against the employer.
Public Service Union