RUSAL workers demand early settlement of tax-free overtime issue

GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis

A GROUP of employees representing the workers of the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc. (BCGI) on Monday met with the central executive of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) in Linden and expressed the need for the matter concerning their tax-free overtime payment to be dealt with urgently.

Present at the meeting were also representative from the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection, Mr. Lincoln Lewis General Secretary of the GB&GWU and its President Mr. Leslie Gonsalves. Following the meeting Lewis told the Guyana Chronicle that the matter of the tax-free over time payment was deemed pertinent to the workers and they pleaded with the Labour representatives to look into the matter with urgency as the outstanding implementation is worrying. After hours of deliberations, both parties agreed that the matter needs to be dealt with but in a manner that will not affect the progress already made. He posited that the workers left in confidence that this will be done earliest. “The workers were heartened that RUSAL has already signaled by way of a proposed memorandum that they would pay the overtime,” Lewis said.

He added that the Union’s leadership will continue to engage the technical staff and the Department of Labour for the benefit of the workers. When asked about RUSAL’s initial request for a Government order before honouring the instruction to pay the tax-free overtime, Lewis responded, “that is something the Ministry (Ministry of Social Protection) and Finance (Ministry of Finance) are handling. “
In December 2016 at a meeting between RUSAL’s executives and Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection Keith Scott, he had mentioned that the delay is no fault of the government.

The representatives of RUSAL had retreated from its earlier decision not to pay the tax-free overtime to workers based on the claim that it does not support the workers’ representative-the GB&GWU, as a signatory to the pact. Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman at a bauxite centennial symposium in October, revealed that when all legality is cleared up, the workers will be paid retroactively. He also made it clear that his Government will not allow foreign companies to disrespect the laws of Guyana and the workers that serve them. “I’ve said that the government’s position is that one: you must respect the laws of Guyana, two you must respect the contracts of agreements you entered into with the Government of Guyana and thirdly you must respect the workers of Guyana, that position is not going to be changed at all,” Trotman posited.

Tax-free concession on overtime work was implemented in 1988. This concession was enjoyed by workers up until 2007, when it was taken away by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration. The move by the PPP Administration had adversely affected the earnings of bauxite workers from Linden and Kwakwani, and was viewed by critics as a punitive exercise for not supporting the PPP.