Labour Department promises fast-tracked unionisation for NMWU – Union President
Aurora Gold Mine workers
…says it was not invited to upcoming meeting
The National Mine Workers’ Union is the unofficial representative of workers from the Aurora Gold Mine (AGM) and after many calls for unionisation from employees, the Labour Department has promised a fast-tracked process to guarantee this.
President of the National Mine Workers’ Union, Sherwyn Downer told Guyana Times on Saturday that the union is pleased with this accomplishment, judging from the fact that the Guyana Goldfields Inc demonstrated resistance in the beginning.
Over 200 workers had downed their tools and initiated strike actions last Tuesday, after calls mounted for them to be officially represented by a union and other improved working conditions and wages.
Downer stated that after meeting with officials from the Labour Department, they were able to ensure that none of the workers lost their jobs and an expedited application procedure.
The Union representative clarified that while reports surfaced that they were invited to the upcoming meeting on Monday with the workers and Government officials to iron out pertinent issues, this is fallacious.
“The company announced that they have agreed to dialogue with the Ministry and the workers’ representative. The officials are going in there on Monday. Now, we have not been invited. It is not fitting well with my members and the workers are now demanding that I come into the delegation on Monday. They have said that they are willing to [go] back on strike again because they are demanding my presence. Meeting out there is not enough,” Downer said.
Downer stated that the Department of Labour has announced intentions of conducting a poll to determine if the NMWU is capable of representing the employees. This has created unrest among them since it points to the existence of another Union body.
“This morning (Saturday), the Minister is quoted as saying that they have to conduct a poll. Now a poll means that you have more than one union contesting. In this case, there is no other union there. So to say that you’re going in there to conduct a poll, it is raising eyebrows and the workers themselves is asking now ‘where is this other union coming from’ because they’re indicating that it is more than one union,” he asserted.
According to him, a survey is needed to ensure that they can garner 40 per cent or more of the workers’ support and he is confident that this can be achieved.
“Using the words ‘poll’ and ‘survey’ is two different things. A survey will determine if we have more than 40 per cent at Aurora and we have more than that.”
One of the workers contacted this publication, stating that clarity is needed on these issues. He stated that by not inviting their representative and conducting a ‘poll’, it is seen as a means to “smuggle” another union to represent them.
During the strike, the workers had claimed that they were threatened with having their Wi-Fi cut off which is vital to ensure communication from their Cuyuni-Mazaruni location to the coast. They are demanding better wages, better quality food and laundry services, out of town allowance, missing NIS contributions among others.
On Friday the Canadian company indicated that persons are returning to work on a phased approach and it is anticipated that full production will resume shortly. Three days without production has resulted in an estimated 22,500 ounces of unprocessed ore.