MONDAY, December 9, will mark a decade of the Russian-controlled Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) not wanting to deal with the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and we will not relent. On March 20, after an almost six-week strike, management signed Terms of Resumption with the union. It took the workers approximately nine (9) years, three (3) months, and twenty-eight (28) days for management to recognise their union, but management continues to engage in dilatory tactics not to pay them. They are not negotiating in good faith, so the struggle continues.
The Coalition Government is commended for putting a stop to what RUSAL/BCGI was doing. Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally dealt with the matter decisively, compared to Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir under the Bharrat Jagdeo government, who joined forces with the foreign ownership against the workers of Guyana, ignoring their pleas and legitimacy of their struggle. This is Jagdeo who shamelessly wants to surface again, even though he remains a polarising figure. We must never forget and never allow it to happen again because the bottom line is, he has demonstrated the mindset, the capacity for vindictiveness, demonisation, marginalisation and destruction of the people of this country. He can do it again.
Hiding behind a surrogate does not make Mr Jagdeo more acceptable or less feared. The people of Guyana, in particular the families in the communities of Region 10/Linden must remember. It is the belief that the worst crime any leader can do is collude with foreign forces and operate against its own national interest and citizens. This was a Jagdeo Government/Russian collusion. Today he talks about inclusionary democracy when he made every effort to undermine the trade union movement and exclude groups from meaningful participation in society, bringing a dark cloud of fear over the land.
When the union sought to include Mr Jagdeo in a national call to protect the sovereignty of this nation and the workers and communities of Region 10, he who has assigned himself ‘the end all and be all of the PPP,’ the most vocal on everything for the PPP remained silent, ignoring the plight of the people. He is still being given the opportunity to redeem himself and let history record him on the right side of justice for the Guyanese worker. And whereas collectively the PPP can be held to account, it was President Donald Ramotar who sought to distinguish himself a bit by trying to bring resolution to the impasse. Through his Minister of Labour Dr Nanda Gopaul, compulsory arbitration was instituted in 2012. But this was stalled and after a while it became evident that there was a hidden hand in the political hierarchy that wanted the Russians to run wild.
Evidently this was no ordinary industrial battle; it was a politically orchestrated one in which the union found itself. Workers are called on not to forget and not to rest. The struggle we endure might be long and tiresome, but we are encouraged, because joy will certainly come to those who remain resilient in purpose. Ours is a battle to be won, not lost, because it is just and right.
RUSAL has been playing the opposition card to escalate an environment of tension. When called on by the union, as per the Collective Labour Agreement, to proceed to conciliation, and if possible, arbitration, management has taken the position that it doesn’t want a third party to be involved in the matter. Management insisted the workers cannot be paid an increase because the company is not making money, then proceeded to give the impression that the company is packing up to leave. After months of grandstanding it began stripping operations on Thursday.
If RUSAL claims it is not making a profit, and given it has no commitment to the people of Guyana, why after over 10 years it is still here. Is there another purpose to RUSAL’s presence in Guyana? Should we assume that this company is strictly business, when Russia is trying to create a political role all over the world and is seeking avenues to create divides and within countries divide people. We cannot ignore Russia’s role in the global sphere, economic and otherwise.
Meanwhile, workers claimed that they are hearing the rumour of BOSAI moving in. There is video evidence of this company visiting and examining the operations at the Aroaima location; this heightens suspicion that the Russians might be planning some selling out to BOSAI. Given the backdrop of this struggle, the government is being called on to resolve the grievances before elections by putting systems in place to activate voluntary arbitration consistent with the Grievance Procedure. Ten years, of which the government has had almost five, is too long.