After assurances by Government that the fired bauxite workers will be reinstated, the Russian Bauxite Company, RUSAL, has refused to do so, signalling their intentions of having the 61 workers replaced by the end of the week.
This was disclosed on Tuesday during a meeting with RUSAL officials, Mikhail Krupenin and Vladimir Permyakov; Social Protection Minister, Amna Ally; Junior Social Protection Minister, Keith Scott and Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, where it was questioned whether all fired workers would be reinstated.
While it was announced by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman that the dismissed workers will be reinstated, company officials said those persons can only be rehired after their demands to rejoin the enterprise are laid over, along with some other conditions.
“Those who are willing to come back to the enterprise and work will have an opportunity to write their demands to be admitted to the enterprise. Each case would be examined by the administration. Each individual needs to be examined by the company administration,” Permyakov stated.
According to RUSAL, those who are not on the job have not received any payments and they have moved towards inviting persons who have a desire to join the company to do so.
However, notices were issued to an additional 30 workers, informing them that they are not to turn up for work until further notice. According to the company, the bauxite reserves are not as lucrative to investors as they were in the past.
These statements were met with strong opposition from Minister Ally, who labelled RUSAL’s actions as unreasonable and unthinkable.
“I believe that RUSAL management is unreasonable. It is unthinkable for the positions that you have taken on this issue. It is very clear that you do not want an amicable solution to this matter because you have put on the table, issues to us…which says take it or leave it,” Minister Ally posited.
She added, “You have put conditions that those who are willing to come back, their demands to be admitted to the enterprise must be laid over. I think that is unthinkable. Once the workers are back on stream, then it provides an opportunity for us to discuss and come to some agreement but to say to the workers that ‘for you to be readmitted, you have to establish these things’ is unthinkable”.
The Minister further related that they are going to examine the company with regards to its operations and working conditions. Ally posited that the company should reinstate the workers first and then issues surrounding the Labour Department will be dealt with.
In light of the ongoing fiasco between RUSAL and its workers, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) stated that the company is taking a dangerous turn which is seen as an attack on the working class.
“The struggle with the Russian management is taking on an ugly and most dangerous turn that is the first of its nature experienced in the history of Guyana…The actions of the Russian management violates our country in every way and must be seen as an act of declaring war against the working class and all Guyanese,” the Union stated.
According to the Union, the company issued emails to its employees stating, “Management has found it necessary to close sections of its operation and to lay off some employees”.
The organisation sought to respond by saying, “The ‘lay off’ along with the 61 dismissed earlier means the number of workers being victimised is climbing”.
Meanwhile, Minister Trotman told media operatives on Monday that a collective bargain agreement should be forged between the company and its workers since the present tension is a testament to the absence of such a treaty.
“I think ultimately, the better systems need to be put in place for managing good relations. On one hand, I think the company needs to understand that we do have laws and the workers need to follow a collective bargain agreement, so the answer lies in getting a firm collective bargain between the company and the workers. As long as there is an absence of such an agreement, we’re going to have this tension which erupts periodically,” the Minister said.
BCGI – which is owned by RUSAL– dismissed 61 workers on February 19, 2019, since the employment contract prohibits them from downing their tools.
During a meeting at the Labour Department last week, the BCGI representatives said that the company does not recognise the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union.
“Only a few weeks after, we got information that the judge in (a case decided) this Board was constituted with some breaches and could be considered illegal. It meant former worker was considered by decision of judge illegal. I think many people knew the Board was illegal. But nobody said to us such a (poll) could be considered null and void,” the company’s representative said.
This is a reference to the judgment issued in the case of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB) versus the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).
FITUG General Secretary Carvil Duncan had claimed that TURCB unilaterally appointed a Chairman in 2015 without consulting them and only recognised the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC).
In the written judgment issued by the High Court on November 8, 2017, it said FITUG was not consulted prior to the appointment of a Chair in 2015. This was found to be in violation of the Trade Union Recognition Act, especially as it relates to the selection of a Chairman of the organisation.
When asked, however, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle maintained that the GBGWU, by virtue of winning that poll, should be the duly-recognised representative of the bauxite workers. This is, after all, the approach the Ministry has adopted.