Union, RUSAL hold first round of talks

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…no agreement on reinstatement of sacked workers

THE Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) has lobbied for the reinstatement of workers who were dismissed by the Russian-owned Bauxite Company, RUSAL.

The union managed to meet with representatives of the company after weeks of being denied the opportunity to engage in bilateral discussion. According to a statement from GB&GWU, the parties met in an amicable environment to hold bilateral discussion.
“This saw the union advocating for the reinstatement of the dismissed workers and having discussion on the removal of the barricading of the Upper-Berbice River, among other issues,” said the union. The company and union have been at odds for more than a week after RUSAL declared that it has not been making profits in recent years and will be closing sections of its operations, while laying off 30 workers to add to the 61 it had fired.

The dismissed workers had taken strike action on February 15, 2019 to protest a one per cent increase in salaries for 2019. The workers have since blocked the river at Aroaima where the company’s bauxite-laden barges have to pass to go to the transshipment station for loading onto ocean-going vessels.
In an effort to alleviate the grievance, the union and company met in the boardroom of the law firm of Hughes, Fields and Stoby.

The union’s delegation comprised of GB&GWU President, Leslie Gonsalves; General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis; Assistant Secretary, Sheldon Thomas; and BCGI branch leader, Ephraim Velloza.
RUSAL was represented through, the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) which sent a delegation comprising Company Representative in Guyana, Permyakov Vladimir; Personnel Manager, Mikhail Krupenin; and Labour Adviser, Mohamed Akeel.

The union submitted to the company, in writing, the terms and conditions upon which normalcy can be restored at the workplace, and has taken the opportunity to explain to the company’s delegation the rationale and justification for every issue appearing in the document.
Deliberations lasted for about an hour and the parties will reconvene another meeting on Tuesday, March 19.

NO AGREEMENT
“No agreement was arrived at since the BCGI representatives claimed that they had to go back to their principals in Russia. The union, while concerned about the absence of decision-making, is prepared to wait on a response expected at the next meeting as this will determine the way forward and the genuine commitment of BCGI in engaging the union with integrity and willingness for mutually acceptable decisions. Until such time, the impasse remains,” said the union.

The workers, in solidarity with members of the community, are still blocking the river.
“GB&GWU continues to rely on the support of society and government to remain engaged until workers on strike and those who were unlawfully dismissed, in violation of the Laws of Guyana, are returned to duty with no interruption in service or loss of seniority,” said the union. The recent fallout between the parties has caused a nationwide stir because RUSAL has been operating in Guyana for many years as a major employer of Guyanese.