Home Letters Some people require vision and clarity of focus (Part 2)
Mr Lewis had many interactions with Mr Sam Hinds while in the bauxite sector or as Prime Minister and failed to remember the many seminars Mr Sam Hinds attended, where he spoke to the many workers, including Mr Lewis and Kim Kissoon. One such that stands out is the theme “Where to Bauxite?” Must still linger in many workers’ mind as everyone was aware that there were changes coming.
However they all knew that the change was not arbitrary, the Government had no intention to shut down Linmine and Bermine Specifically, in the case of Linmine, the PPP/C met an agreement between the outgoing PNC Administration in 1992 and the group of supporting countries and institutions, which required that the international manager, MINPROC, funded by the supporting group, be allowed two years to manage Linmine in their best judgement, then they would pronounce whether Linmine could be made profitable or not. If so Linmine was to be sold and if not, it was to be shut down forthwith.
In 1994, MINPROC proclaimed the latter, it could not see profitability for Linmine – but (PPP/C) did not proceed to shut down Linmine. It was Mr Sam Hinds and the PPP/C Administration that had to reconfigure the operations whilst arranging to satisfy all the benefits of the workers. The companies were reorganised to match the new (reduced) prospects for sales, taking all opportunities for improving productivity and hence for lowering costs. Over the many preceding years of insufficient money in Linmine, the payments to the workers’ saving scheme, GRA personal income tax, NIS, company pension scheme were in arrears and needed to be reconciled with the various agencies. It required more than $2.5 billion and two years to satisfy all of these.
In the case of Bermine, it was completely run down. As things turned out, ALCOA bought out Reynolds, inheriting the joint GOG/Reynolds operation at Aroaima. ALCOA informed the Government that it had no need for the Aroaima operation, but they were willing to hand ABC/AMC to the Government for US$1, along with conditions which essentially implied that GoG would keep the operations going for another two years. Again, it was Sam Hinds and the PPP/C that ensured reorganisation was done to minimise costs and losses/subsidies and meet all that was required for workers. Bermine was merged into ABC/AMC, which was in better condition with better prospects.
In time, as hoped, the two reorganised operations attracted credible interests and were privatised. In such circumstances, the better approach was to end the existing company and start a new company in a new book. Termination benefits had to be and were paid to everyone and a good number of the 3000 so terminated were rehired the following day. Our PPP/C Administration was as generous as it could be.
Breaking up the savings scheme and pension plan. The PPP/C decided to end the savings scheme and the pension scheme – many workers wanted their monies for various reasons. Also, the cost of maintaining the pension scheme to the passing of the last member would eat up a great part of the scheme particularly when account is taken that there was an average inflation of about 100 between when money was put into the scheme and when administration costs had to be paid.
GoG had no rights to hand over the workers’ monies to others. We said, “Go to the workers. We will hand the money to the workers, and then they would invest themselves directly in any way/fund as they may be persuaded”. (ii) Concerning the eventual privatisation of the bauxite operations, we maintained/subsidised them through a number of invitations to privatise, until there was in our judgement, credible offers. Thus, recall the cooperation in the Linden area were privatised firstly to OGML/CAMBIOR and when they collapsed, we accepted the only offer OGML/CAMBIOR were willing to accept, that of BOSAI (the operations would have been abruptly closed otherwise). In the Berbice River, we accepted the offer of RUSAL. Today, in a very difficult world trade situation, BOSAI and RUSAL are continuing core operations. (iii)With respect to the alternative offer for Bermine, we could have been wrong, but taking account of the condition of the plant, the bauxite/alumina/aluminium as well as the non-metallurgical businesses, we did not think that, that proposal was credible. As I recall Mr Lewis’ proposals were not well received by a number of workers at a meeting he held in Everton.
The PPP/C worked with EU/SYSMINS for a third multilateral intervention, LEAP, proposing and progressing initially a programme of some 25 million Euros which included much needed physical infrastructure (upgraded Linden-Ituni-Kwakwani road and Millie’s Hideout to Wiruni on the Berbice River). In later reviews within the EU, LEAP was downsized to keep the focus on a people-changing programme. Separate funding would have to be sought later for infrastructure and other projects as they became evident. Mr Winston Brassington and the late Mr Horace James worked assiduously to put and make non-core assets available and attractive for new profitable ventures.
The PPP/C Administration completed the Government take-up and provisioning for all non-core social services which the bauxite operations were no longer carrying. the PPP/C maintain in all clear conscience that they have been taking equitable and appropriate (not identical) positions on bauxite and sugar, and they have endured criticisms from both sides. For example, there is the criticism that when OGML/CAMBIOR had suspended the operations in Linden for two months, PPP/C provided basic pay to every employee requiring only that they, from Sweeper to Manager, spend a certain number of hours each week at computer classes aimed at their level, the PPP/C were pointing African bauxite workers to the digital future.
Former Prime Minister Mr Sam Hinds moved on from the suffering of the past to a more hopeful and united future. His rhetoric has called our Guyanese nation into being Guyanese regardless of race or class, and have an equal status and equal opportunities.