No fuel, blocked river
RUSAL has reportedly moved to lay off more of its workers just a week after laying off over 142 employees. A letter from the company dated January 29, 2020, which was seen by this publication, indicated that the company was forced to further reduce operations and to lay off employees owing to adverse operating circumstances including shipment interruption because of the blockage of the Berbice River. The letter, which listed 146 employees, stated that the lay-off will take effect from today (January 30, 2020) with the employees to be recalled as soon as the situation returns to normalcy. It further indicated that letters would be sent to employees’ home addresses by way of the post office. Following the decision to lay off employees owing to claims of fuel shortages, workers and residents blocked the section of the Berbice River utilised by the Aroaima-based company.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union in a statement to the media stated that the decision to lay off the workers is in contravention of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act. The Union stated that the Government of Guyana is yet to facilitate the process to bring about a resolution.
The Labour Department, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that on January 27, it met with the management of RUSAL and the recognised majority union separately.
It stated that the Labour Department took the position that the workers were improperly laid off by the company and should, therefore, be recalled immediately.
It added that it has advised the Union that it was illegal to block the river and should, therefore, take steps to unblock it.
“The Department is contemplating convening a meeting with the parties to determine the way forward with outstanding negotiations for a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) of which wages and salaries are a component. The Department will continue to do everything possible within the confines of the known laws and prudent industrial relations practices to have all differences settled,” the statement from the Labour Department said.
The dispute started on January 23, when the company announced its decision to lay off workers after Government ended its duty-free importation of fuel arrangement.