GB&GWU remains resolute in call for arbitration

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Dear Editor

IT is instructive the attempt being made by the government to resolve the impasse between the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI). The Russian management has demanded from the government that the media does not cover the issues and that the unions are not involved.

This information was shared by Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally with the Stabroek News (8th March, “Ally signals arbitration for BCGI disputes”). The demand is preposterous, and speaks to the height of RUSAL’s effrontery! What next! Will Russia want to determine who must be Guyana’s president, opposition leader, the leader of political parties, religious organisations, etc.?

Citizens and workers need no more evidence of the contempt being shown for Guyana’s sovereignty by a foreign company hosted under our laws, expected to respect same, and abide by international good corporate practices. Instead, we bear witness to the intensifying of the contempt for the labour laws and constitutional rights of workers (Article 147), to now that of seeking to trample on Article 146 of the Constitution.

Article 146 guarantees the right to freedom of expression, the sharing of information and knowledge. This right protects citizens and the media in our day-to-day activities, and it’s utilisation is critical in seeking resolution to conflicts, including that of the present industrial impasse. The Russian management is seeking to prevent us from telling our stories, articulating our reality. This attitude is symptomatic of those not respecting that basic human rights and freedoms are universal and protected.

As BCGI management seeks to deny the Government of Guyana and her people, Russia is spreading misinformation on the impasse and about Guyanese, via its Sputnik news agency. This misinformation is being utlised by international media, such as the USA Bloomberg News, and even reported in at least one of our Online news outlets. Guyanese did not fight for freedom of expression to have it denied to us by those who know or care not for our historical struggles, achievements and development as a people.

As this is being written, recall is made of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s February 28 press conference. At that conference, he was derisive of the government for allowing the media access to its meeting with BCGI and the unions, and on the ministry’s visit to Aroaima, a site of BCGI. Jagdeo has to be mindful that, as the Russians seek to deprive Guyanese freedom of expression and the unions the right to association/solidarity on matters that affect workers across the board, his refusal to condemn BCGI’s growing contempt for the nation’s sovereignty is not perceived as consent. He is well aware silence is also a position.

GB&GWU remains resolute in its call on the government to activate arbitration under the Labour Act (98:01) and consistent with the Collective Labour Agreement. Government has to be mindful that it has to show mettle in dealing with RUSAL lest it be accused of being incapable of.

Regards
Lincoln Lewis
General Secretary, GB&GWU