Department of Labour affirms justness of Blairmont factory workers protest

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Dear Editor
THE Department of Labour on (Wednesday) February 12 finally delivered its findings and recommendations regarding claims by workers of Blairmont factory over what they felt was discriminatory treatment meted out to them. In October, last year, the workers protested after a former manager, who was re-employed as an artisan, was promoted and capable and able factory workers with several years of service were bypassed for promotion. While the workers hadn’t any aversion to the promoted worker, they contended that the long-standing system for promotion was deviated from and they sought that the system be adhered to in the interest of fairness.

The union had pointed out that the corporation disregarded its own Personnel Manual which clearly spelt out the process for promotion. The GuySuCo in response, astonishingly, said it has a right to ignore its own policy. Apart from that, the GAWU demonstrated that the Recognition and the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes was also disobeyed by the corporation. Notwithstanding what we felt were convincing and rational arguments, the sugar company adamantly refused to budge. The situation saw the workers taking protest action as they, undoubtedly, felt they were in the right. The continued action by the workers resulted in the intervention of the Department of Labour which convened conciliatory proceedings.

At the conciliatory level, the union reiterated what it said at the bilateral level and contended that the company was clearly in the wrong and the workers themselves have been wronged. After several months and a number of reminders from the union, the Labour Department on Wednesday invited the parties to present its findings. The conciliator Francis Carryl in his report found that the corporation did not abide by its own policy. Furthermore, he concluded that the GuySuCo disregarded the legally binding agreement between the union and the corporation. Using several precedents, the conciliator was critical of the corporation’s actions and recommended that the promotion of the worker in question be rescinded. The GAWU, which has just received the full report of the conciliator, is currently considering his findings and recommendations. Prior to the Labour Department making its views known, the corporation, without any explanation, has transferred the worker in question to Albion estate.

Indeed, the Labour Department through its findings, has upheld the justness of the workers’ struggle to be treated equitably and fairly. For the GAWU, it was upsetting that the workers again must struggle in order to be treated with respect and for the system developed in their interest to be embraced. It is yet another reminder of the dim regard some have for workers’ principled concerns. We sincerely believe the entire episode could have been avoided; however, the corporation, though having no valid rationale, held on adamantly to what has not been found to be deemed a wrong stand. For us, we cannot comprehend why the corporation went to such lengths, though it must have known that its position could not have stood even the flimsiest film of scrutiny? It would be interesting to know what were its motivation/s.

As we consider the entire incident, we recalled the GuySuCo, according to the January 03, Stabroek News, was critical of the workers of Blairmont Estate for their stance. However, as time has ultimately demonstrated, it was the corporation that should accept wrongdoing and responsibility for the entire state of affairs.

Regards
Seepaul Narine
General-Secretary, GAWU