first_imgFiring of striking workers…as bauxite company defends firing striking workersRussian bauxite company RUSAL is maintaining its contention that it does not recognise the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), something the Government’s Labour Department is rebuffing.RUSAL officials: In foreground is former Chief Labour Officer Mohamed Akeel, followed by RUSAL’s representative (right) and another officialThe matter came up at the Social Protection Ministry on Tuesday where RUSAL officials met with the Labour Department. Afterwards, the RUSAL representative was asked about the relationship between his company and the Union.The GB&GWU has complained about the company’s refusal to negotiate with the Union. This is despite winning a recognition poll in 2017 involving bauxite workers by an overwhelming majority as the preferred representative of workers in the sector.“We have no relation with this union,” the Russian company’s representative said. “It happened before I came to Guyana to work … it was an alternative poll. This poll took place on October 3, 2017. It was won by 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 nil and void.”Chief Labour Officer Charles OgleThis is a reference to the judgement 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.RecognisedWhen asked, however, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle maintained that the GB&GWU 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.“They (RUSAL) can’t say that. A poll was done there. The Union is the recognised union; there’s no doubt about that. The GB&GWU is the recognised union. They did a poll and the Union won that poll.”The poll came against the backdrop of eight years of refusal by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), RUSAL’s local subsidiary, to treat with the GB&GWU. This Union has been crusading against the transgressing of workers’ constitutional right to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (Article 147), and the violation of Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act (1997) in the domestic and international communities.The GB&GWU, as a result of the poll, had renewed calls for the BCGI to honour the laws of Guyana and treat with the Union according to said laws, failing to do otherwise would constitute a breach of the law and be continued high-handedness and disrespect shown by management for the sovereignty of Guyana and the workers of Guyana.The GB&GWU said too it called on the coalition Government, with authority vested by way of recognition, to cause the BCGI to respect the will and rights of these workers. Back then, the Union had warned that after any failure to do so, Government could not absolve itself from taking responsibility in siding with foreign forces to undermine this nation’s integrity and sovereignty.Company defends decisionMeanwhile, the company’s managers have defended the firing of 60 of its employees, saying that the workers’ contracts do not cater for them taking industrial action.When asked, RUSAL’s representative said that workers sign contracts which stipulate they could be dismissed if they down tools. According to the official, firing workers for breaching their contracts by striking is a ‘usual practice’ in the mining sector.The fate of the 60 workers who were dismissed remains in limbo, as the RUSAL representative noted that their re-employment depended on a number of factors. According to RUSAL’s representative, the company has already tried to get the striking workers to resume work by reaching out to them, with only one success story.RUSAL’s representative was also asked about RUSAL’s reluctance to pay more than one per cent increases. This is believed to have directly led to the strike. The official said that for some time RUSAL has not been making a profit, but rather breaking even.Meanwhile, Chief Labour Officer Ogle was very guarded when asked by the media about the meeting and the way forward. However, he revealed that more meetings will have to be held, including one tentatively scheduled for tomorrow with Russia-based RUSAL officials who are flying in to Guyana. He also revealed that Government would put two proposals to RUSAL on the way forward.The striking workers were fired last week after they downed tools and protested an arbitrary one per cent salary increase. The workers said that they were told that the one per cent was sanctioned by the Government itself.last_img read more