Lewis decries cont’d impasse on BCGI/RUSAL issue

Trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis

Eight years after some 57 workers were dismissed and suspended by the Russian-based Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), there is yet to be closure of the issue and the coalition Government is being called upon to take a more stringent approach towards the matter, even as atrocities against Guyanese workers continue.
Representative of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), Lincoln Lewis, reiterated the disrespect that BCGI, a subsidiary of RUSAL, continues to show not only to Guyanese and the Government, but the country’s laws as well.
“RUSAL cannot continue in this country to challenge the sovereignty of Guyana by not respecting it and I believe that Minister Scott and the Cabinet of this country has a responsibility to ensure that they respect it,” he stated.
On this note, the trade unionist called on Government, as the custodian of the laws, to either take stringent actions against the company or terminate its operations here.
“The ball is in the Government’s court. The Government had decided in one specific case that it will wave taxes and overtime pay for workers employed at RUSAL and RUSAL has refused to sign the document. The Government has signed, the Union has signed and they have refused to sign so the workers are not benefiting from it. It should have been effective since October 1, 2016. We cannot continue to live like this, if RUSAL has the temerity to stand up to tell the Government they’re not signing it for the workers to get what is agreed upon, then sometime is wrong. Who runs this country; RUSAL or us,” the veteran trade unionist argued.
Meanwhile, commenting on the issue, Minister Keith Scott has stated that the Government has been relentlessly working to ensure that the matter is resolved between the two parties.
“In terms of us performing our duties, there could be no fault; we’ve done that all the time. We can’t break the hands of the company or the hands of the Union, but what we can do is insist that the companies, whether local or foreign, respect and adhere to the laws of Guyana. In the areas where we find that there is any transgression, we are relentless in bringing the companies to book and we shall continue to do so,” he posited.
Following a meeting this week with representatives from GB&GWU, Minister Scott said his officer is currently making arrangements to visit the operations of these companies, especially in light of reports of breaches of the occupation and safety health laws.
Among the issues the union representatives complained bitterly to the Minister about during the meeting was the use of defective vehicles to transport staff to the worksites on a daily basis.
In fact, Minister Scott was told that one of the faulty vehicles caused an accident last Thursday in which several persons were injured.
Nevertheless, the Minister said during the upcoming visit to the companies, he will be looking into these issues.
Over the years, workers at BCGI and RUSAL have been crying out against the treatment meted out by management of the company as they advocate for better pay and union representation.