Stalemate ends as RUSAL agrees to recognise workers union

Firing of sticking workers

Russian owned bauxite company, RUSAL, has agreed to recognise the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) as the authorised and legitimate body that represents bauxite workers in Guyana.

GBGWU President Lincoln Lewis

This has now put an end to weeks of stalemate between the company, Government and the workers union. The agreement was made on Tuesday when the union and the company met with representatives of the Labour Department. Following the meeting, the two sides agreed to meet again on Friday to discuss the way forward on the 90 employees that were dismissed from the company.
After the meeting, President of the GBGWU, Lincoln Lewis told the media that the two parties (RUSAL and the GBGWU) had decided that they need to meet bilaterally, and this process will commence on Friday.
“We have to work together in the interest of workers, in the interest of the company, in the interest of the nation. That’s where we are and just looking for a way forward, that’s it,” Lewis said.
He explained that the Union will submit to the company today; its list of items that it would like to form part of the agenda for discussion, while RUSAL will also submit to the GBGWU what it considers to be important for the discussion.
“We believe that this exercise is going to be one where we start building of trust and confidence in our relationship because it is necessary that both sides work together. All that we are doing now is that we are going to talk about normalcy. How we will get back to normalcy…they are open to dialogue, not recommendation,” Lewis stated.

Representatives of RUSAL leaving the Labour Department during a previous meeting

The GBGWU President noted that in the list that his Union will be submitting to the bauxite company, the topics for discussion include future negotiations between the two parties and the establishment of occupational health and safety committee.

Blocking of Berbice River
Meanwhile, in relation to the present situation where the dismissed workers and sympathisers who blocked off the access road and river to RUSAL’s operations in the Upper Demerara area, Lewis said that this form of protest by those affected continues.
“We have not discussed the issues one by one. We will supply the list of the issues that we do have by tomorrow (Wednesday) and we will meet to discuss. In the meantime, the strike continues.”
Meanwhile, in a joint statement by both the bauxite company and the GBGWU, it was stated that the bilateral talks are scheduled to commence Friday.
These decisions were taken at a conciliation meeting under the chairmanship of Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle.
On March 4, the GBGWU and other major trade union representatives were met with grave disappointment when they turned up for a meeting with representatives of the Labour Department and aluminium company, RUSAL.
Instead of being able to start discussions with the aim of resolving the issue of the 90 workers being dismissed by the company, the team of trade union leaders were met with the news that RUSAL had requested not to meet with them unless Lewis was absent from the meeting.
Sixty-one workers were fired by the Russian-owned company after they protested a one per cent salary increase, which they said was agreed to by Government. Following a meeting with Government, RUSAL refused to reinstate the workers and subsequently dismissed 30 more persons from the department in order to temporarily close it as a result of the strike actions.