Bauxite Union, BCGI/RUSAL conciliation meetings to begin on Monday

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GB&GWU General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis

THE first conciliation meetings between the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and the RUSAL-owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), is expected to be held at 14:00hrs on Monday at the Department of Labour (DoL), on Brickdam.

GB&GWU had written the DoL last Tuesday requesting the commencement of conciliation proceedings after the union rejected a three per cent pay increase offered by the company.
GB&GWU General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis noted that if conciliation cannot yield something that the union can agree with, then the union is looking for the process to move to arbitration.

Working conditions at RUSAL/BCGI bauxite mines

“We expect that this discussion will be swift and we either come to an agreement or we move next to arbitration,” Lewis told workers.

Over the weekend union officials had indicated that this week would see the expiration of the timeline whereby a response was expected from BCGI on a Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) and salary proposal, which were submitted by the union since early May.
On receiving the company’s three per cent offer on Tuesday, Lewis had called the proposal “unacceptable”, but noted that he was not surprised by it. He said the union is “prepared to go the distance” in pursuing justice for its workers.

“We have received from BCGI a proposal that we consider unacceptable, we did not expect better from them and it is for that reason that we advised that we will be proceeding to conciliation,” Lewis said.

Over five months have passed since employees ended a five-week strike, and the company agreed to recognise the union, work on a new Collective Labour Agreement, and address salary and other concerns of workers.

The strike had started on February 15, after the company imposed an arbitrary one per cent pay increase on employees. Three days later some 61 employees were fired and the Department of Labour summoned the company. Sometime later another 30 employees were laid off. The strike officially came to an end on March 21, and all terminated workers were reinstated.

The workers complained that since then, the conditions at the mines have not improved.
BCGI Union President, Ephraim Velloza, said the workers are willing to follow the union, and like Lewis said, go the distance. He cautioned however that any action taken will be within the confines of the law.

“The workers are hyping up, the guys are prepared for anything. But we don’t want to do nothing out of our constitutional rights so we’re taking it one step at a time, because these things could get very drastic. Remember school will soon re-open and people ain’t seeing no money coming and these kind of stuff, and the conditions haven’t improved at the camp, every day they trying to take us by storm. So we are waiting on the government intervention and for the company to reconsider their offer,” he said.