Submitted by Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (29 Dec 2010)
Lincoln Lewis, General Secretary Guyana Trades Union Congress
Today the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) turned up to a scheduled meeting at the Ministry of Labour. The ministry had initiated this meeting for the Union and the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) to meet to address a number of issues, including the dismissal of the 57 workers in 2009 and the five in 2010. The meeting which was to be chaired by Mr. Charles Ogle, Assistant Chief Labour Officer, who was present, saw non attendance of the company’s representatives. In a letter seen by the GB&GWU’s representatives the company said that the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) between itself and union has come to an end so it does not consider the ministry’s invitation to a meeting as valid.
It should be clearly stated that even though a collective labour agreement may be expired, while there still exists a Recognition Agreement, a company/employer is legally bound to engage with the union. GB&GWU has so informed the Ministry and has dispatched a letter (see attached) to the company highlighting its legal obligation. The expiration of a CLA has nothing to do with engagement between the parties, it is merely an excuse to avoid the legal obligation to engage, following on a pattern since December 2009 even though there exists a Recognition Agreement that legally binds the party. The Trade Union Recognition Act (98:07) Section 23. (1) ‘Compulsory recognition and duty to treat’ expressly states “Where a trade union obtains a certificate of recognition for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in accordance with this Part, the employer shall recognise the union, and the union and the employer shall bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining.”
Submitted by Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU)
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the majority shareholder in Russian aluminum giant
Monday November 22 mark one year of struggle for economic and social justice by bauxite workers employed by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI), a company owned by Russia Aluminum (RUSAL) and the Government of Guyana. The Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), the union that represents the workers, will mark this anniversary with a protest in front of the Ministry of Labour.
This struggle began when workers down tools after management refused to negotiate increased wages and improved working conditions for year 2009. On the third day of industrial action the company issued dismissal letters to 57 workers, who today still remain off the job, the consequent of the Ministry of Labour’s refusal to enforce the relevant labour laws to ensure justice is served. As of this day those 57 workers have been denied income of approximately 65.5 million dollars and counting for every day they are away from their jobs. This economic marginalization not only impacts the workers but also their families, children and the communities within which they live.
Working conditions for workers continue to deteriorate at BCGI yet a government, who is constitutionally bound to serve and protect all the citizens, continues to ignore and even support the injustices and inequalities inflicted on the workers by a foreign management, in a company the people of Guyana has part ownership, operating on our soil and is bound to respect the country’s laws and industrial relations practices. Recall is made of the industrial action in May 2009 after workers lodged complaints and failed to secure properly equipped mining vehicles, where some fell ill and one permanently disabled. The company’s reaction to the workers’ legitimate action to refuse to work under unsafe conditions as per the Occupational Safety and Health Law (1997) Section 56 (1) saw the suspension of workers and subsequent legal action against the union and union leaders in contravention of Section 58 (1). In June 2010 there was an industrial accident on the mining road where several were seriously injured and one, Remington “Tuts” Wade, died. This accident was the result of workers commuting to work in a company provided vehicle not suitable for the rugged terrain. Last week 5 workers were dismissed for exposing the unhealthy kitchen environment infested with cockroaches and other unsanitary conditions and having to suffer further indignity and exposure to illness being served expired foods.
Submitted by Guyana Bauxite General Workers Union
A group of London-based Guyanese up the ante yesterday by taking its protest in front of the London Guyana High Commission and Russian Embassy as it continues the global appeal for solidarity and support to stop the degeneracy in Guyana. This protest was organized by Norman Browne, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union’s (GB&GWU) UK representative and Dr. Michelle Yaa, human rights activist.
The organizers said the date (October 5) was selected to coincide with the date the PPP boasts as the ‘returned of democracy,’ to expose the facts that over the last 18 years Guyanese at home have been suffering under deteriorating conditions that no democratic society will condone. The evidence of increased crime, extrajudicial killings, violations of workers’ right, torture, exclusion of groups from national decision making, racial division, compromised electoral system and the erosion of the rule of law confirm that Guyana is not a democratic society.
Calling on all Guyanese and citizens around the world to raise their voices in protest against the degeneracy in the society the protest was joined by representatives from the WPA party and various organisations namely, Luwezi Kinshasa, Secretary General of the African Socialist International (ASI); Tongogara Danni from the Pan African Voice London; Kwabena Gyakye from Uhuru Newspaper and the UK’s branch of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP); and Frank Murray, Chair of the Black and Ethnic Advisory Committee of RMT (UK national transport union). Representation from these organisations lent support to the group’s commitment to stand in solidarity with the GB&GWU in their struggle to find justice for the 57 workers wrongfully dismissed by the Russian owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) and to have the company respect the Collective Labour Agreement. For this reason the demonstration was extended to the Russian Embassy where we called for the immediate reinstatement of the 57 workers, for BCGI to meet with the union and respect the rights of the workers.
Submitted by the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU)
On Wednesday September 22, 2010 the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) issued a five-day ultimatum to Oldendorff Carrier to proceed on industrial action if the company refuses to come to the bargaining table with an appropriate proposal. The ultimatum expires on September 27 and the notice was duly issued consistent with Article 6:3 of the Collective Labour Agreement.
The Union and company have been locked in negotiation for increased wages and improve working conditions for year 2010, since June. After the parties failed to reach an agreement, the union wrote the Ministry of Labour requesting conciliation under its chairmanship. At the meeting on September 15 Oldendorff informed the union and ministry that its presence was one of courtesy since the union has no right to bring the matter before the ministry. This prompted the ministry to advice the company that base on the Collective Labour Agreement the union has every right to request conciliation.
Yesterday, September 23, the company informed the union that it will not negotiate. The position is contrary to the Collective Labour of Agreement which explicitly states that wages will be negotiated and a re-commitment to such negotiation given by the company on July 7.
Submitted by Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU)
Ethnic Relations Commission 66 Peter Rose & Anira Streets, Queenstown, Georgetown, Guyana
The Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) today dispatched a letter to Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Yvonne Langevine, Ethnic Relations Commission, reminding the Commission that it still awaits a public inquiry into its eight-month old compliant about discrimination by the Government of Guyana against bauxite workers and their communities base on race and political geography.
The Union having expressed its concerns over the Commission’s inaction reminded it that the government discriminatory policy to bauxite workers and their communities are public knowledge which date back to 1992, with the November 2009 treatment of the impasse between the workers, represented by the GB&GWU and the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI), being the straw that broke the camel’s back.
As per the Guyana Constitution Article 212D (a) the ERC has a responsibility to “provide for equality of opportunity between persons of different ethnic groups and to promote harmony and good relations between such persons” of which over the years bauxite workers and their communities have been denied “equality of opportunity” under this government of which such discriminatory treatment is public knowledge.
Submitted by Guyana Bauxite General Workers Union
Dr. Rupert Roopnarine making presentation
On Wednesday August 18 the GB&GWU in its continued pursuit to ensure the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) and the Government of Guyana respect bauxite workers’ rights to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining made its case before the Black and Ethnic Advisory Committee of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) in London, United Kingdom. In the symposium organized by RMT to address this issue, Norman Browne, the Union’s UK representative made a presentation that highlighted the plight of the bauxite workers and the government’s response to the transgressions.
In presenting the Union’s position of the 10 months old dispute Browne pointed out the evident transgression of Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Act (1997) which expressly says “When a trade union obtains a certificate of recognition for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in accordance with this Part, the employer shall recognise the union, and the union and the employer shall bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining.”
He highlighted the violation of the rights of the 57 workers who were placed on the breadline without due process. He also apprised the audience of the Minister of Labour’s responsibility under the Labour Laws of Guyana, Chapter 98:01 Section 4 (1) (a) (b) and (c) and the concerns of the Union at the tardiness of the Ministry of Labour in resolving the dispute, a dispute that has now become the longest running in the history of Guyana.
Submitted by Guyana Bauxite General Workers Union
Minister of Labour, Manzoor Nadir
GB&GWU grieves with the victims of Manaka accident, demands root cause analysis of accident, and reiterates calls for Ministry of Labour to intervene NOW to stop injuries, loss of income and life at BCGI.
The GB&GWU is deeply grieved and disturbed over the accident involving bauxite workers on June 30 at Manaka, where two died, 15 critically injured and others traumatized. This fatal accident occurred in a company assigned vehicle, on a company road, when workers were being transported to work. This is an industrial accident resulting from negligence and gross occupational safety and health shortcomings which highlights the risk which bauxite workers face on a daily basis. We are reminded that accidents do not just happen but are themselves a result of failure to observe measures appropriate to their prevention.
In the case of the Manaka accident this is an accident that happened on the mines property (road) of which the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) is responsible for its maintenance. This road is built from bauxite waste which over the years requires constant maintenance due to its construction materials and the heavy industrial and other traffic that traverses it. Formerly a grader was assigned to maintain the road, making it safe for traffic. This is no longer being done and as such the road has deteriorated to the point where workers’ transportation has to leave much earlier to meet to work on time on a journey that would normally be much shorter. There are times when traversing the road becomes so bad that it takes more than 2 1/2 times what it would normally take from workplace to home and vice versa. The absence of safety signs to forewarn drivers of the dangerous bend in the road and its deteriorating conditions are also a factor of safety that is missing. The Union is reliably informed that the accident resulted from a collision of on-coming vehicles having to navigate an eroded road at a dangerous turn. Compounding the safety issue is the use of an unsuitable minibus for such conditions as opposed to a more rugged terrain vehicle. It is the responsibility of the employer to take into consideration the safety of every employee before and during the contract of service to transport them from one place to another. The magnitude of the injuries sustained by these employees would not have been so severed if in the first instance the appropriate vehicle was used in transporting the workers.
Posted in Blogging
Tagged GB&GWU, Guyana