RUSAL, union closer to agreement

GB&GW General Secretary Lincoln Lewis

…reinstatement of workers main sticking point

THE Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers of Union (GB&GWU) are nearing an agreement regarding the reinstatement of 91 dismissed workers.

The progress comes following a meeting between RUSAL executive, Vladimir Permyakov; BCGI Personnel Manager, Mikhail Krupenin; General Secretary of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers of Union (GB&GWU), Lincoln Lewis; a group of BCGI workers and Attorney-at-law, Andrew Pollard.

They met on Tuesday at the Hughes, Fields & Stoby law firm on Hadfield Street, Georgetown towards the effort of eventually signing a binding Terms of Resumption (ToR) document.

Speaking to the Guyana Chronicle following the engagement, Lewis said that both sides put forward proposals and, while it was agreed in principle that the workers will be reinstated, the conditions for such are still being discussed. “We want to see reinstatement rather than re-employment. A lot of people are caught with the issue of ‘reemploy’. ‘Re-employ’ means new contracts; ‘reinstatement’ means we’ll continue with the old contract; your seniorities and your salaries will remain,” Lewis said.

Meanwhile, the issue of the check-off system for union dues was discussed as Lewis explained: “The company needs to come back to us on that question. They’ve proposed that the check-off for union dues commence immediately after returning to normalcy. After that we’ll have the removal of the barricades.” The dismissed workers had taken strike action on February 15, 2019 to protest a one per cent increase in salaries for 2019 and less than favourable working conditions.

RUSAL executive Vladimir Permyakov

They joined forces and blocked the Berbice River in the vicinity of the Kwakwani waterfront, in an effort to stymie the movement of barges and water vessels transporting shipment of bauxite.

Tying ropes with drums and other items together, they created a barrier across the river. However, the move is now affecting the operations of the logging industry. Coming out of Tuesday’s meeting, the parties also agreed that following the resumption of normal activities, matters regarding working conditions will be raised and dealt with. “All indications give us the signal that they [RUSAL] are prepared to sit and work [with us],” Lewis said.

Meanwhile, Permyakov said: “It very explicit but constructive…we are going forward not backward.”

Only on March 12, 2019 RUSAL agreed to engage in bilateral discussions with the GB&GWU, a step down from its initial refusal to meet with the union if Lewis was present. Today [Wednesday], the union will be meeting with workers and management in Aroaima where they will relay the matters discussed and gather information on any rising concerns.

When it comes to the signing of the ToR, Lewis indicated that the Labour Department will be involved. The recent fallout between the parties has caused a nationwide stir as RUSAL has been operating in Guyana for many years as a major employer of Guyanese.

In a release on Tuesday, the Ministry of Natural Resources commended the parties involved on the progress made. “The ministry reiterates its support for the workers and urges that the matter be speedily concluded to the mutual benefit of all parties. The resolution is particularly for the workers who have been left at a disadvantage since the dispute

commenced, however it has also extended to beyond the bauxite mining sector and is now affecting the logging industry. There is disruption to the logging industry in the area with regard to transportation of logs out of the area by river. The ministry urges that the matter be resolved post haste,” the release stated.