–serves almost 90 workers termination letters
INSTEAD of honouring their commitment to contact Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally by last Saturday as promised to relate positive word on the reinstatement of the 61 workers who were terminated, the managers of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc, (BCGI) on Monday served them with official letters of termination and, more regrettably, as this newspaper was reliably informed, called another close to 30 workers to the office, and issued them too with termination letters, thus making the total number of workers being terminated to around 90.
In the letter, signed by Company Manager Mihail Krupenin, RUSAL says that it regrets having to inform the workers that as a result of its having to downscale its operations, management had no other choice but to lay off workers. The letter was dated February 20, and the workers received them through the mail. It also stated that they would receive wages up to February 20. “It is our hope that the layoff will not be more than the period allowed by law,” the letter, seen by this publication, stated.
One of the recipients of the letter expressed frustration that the situation seems to be worsening instead of what was promised by the ministers upon their visit on Friday. “We had solid word from the minister herself, that we would be reinstated,” the worker said, adding that it is now clear to him that RUSAL has no regard for the government, and that was relayed by them at a meeting held by senior managers in the Kurubuka Mines.
He said that while the letter received by the 61 was penned and mailed before the Ministers’ visit, the issuance to the additional workers on Monday showed that neither the government nor the union has any say in the internal decisions of RUSAL.
He further charged that the ‘scaling down of
JUST A FRONT
operations’ excuse as just a front, as the government had no legal ramifications to fight against such a reason. He also wanted to know why the Russians did not mention this to ministers while they were in Georgetown or during their meeting in the Mines.
He and his colleagues find it rather convenient that all of a sudden, Rusal will be closing operations, when it only just recently invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the very same operation. “That cannot be true!” he charged. “For last year, they bring in about 12 machines and about 18 trucks; if you not making a profit, why you keep investing in something you not gaining from,” the worker reasoned.
Another charged. “They keep buying these triple-seven trucks; about 12 last year, and brand-new loaders. These things cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Bauxite loading and shipping like normal, even when they had the sanction.”
The worker is calling on the government to be more forceful in dealing with the issue as tension is getting higher every day. “No one (Russian), would have met with us, it is really frustrating to everyone, it is almost nine days since this ordeal and no one is getting paid, we are hoping it is resolved quickly because we have families and children, tension is raising and the situation is getting ugly, “ the worker said.
On Monday, February 26, 2019, the scores of workers who were terminated, assembled at the Kwakwani Workers Club and were utilizing the supplies provided by government. Another set of workers were in Maple Town, Aroaima, and the workers related that no one was going anywhere, until the matter was resolved.
CONDITIONS NOT ARGUABLE
Despite this unfortunate turn of events, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, has said that the conditions of reinstatement laid out by him and other ministers when they met with RUSAL managers last week are not arguable, and the government will not ‘flinch’. He told Lindeners at the recent flagraising ceremony that all 61 workers must be reinstated; that the GBGWU must be engaged, and that Rusal must recognise the union, which is the elected voice of the workers.
“We made it very clear that the workers must be treated in a respectful manner, and that at all times, our labour laws must be upheld. This government takes this matter seriously at the earliest possible time and therefore we as a government will do whatever necessary to ensure that this happens,” Harmon said.
Commenting on the issuance of termination letters, Regional Vice-Chairman Elroy Adolph said that it is highly regrettable that the workers were officially terminated, despite the government’s intervention. “It adds to the woes of our community and our country; it adds more insult to injury, now more persons are off the job, communities are suffering and we need to know definitively, when this will be resolved,” Adolph said, while calling on the government and the subject ministers to continue to fight for the rights of the workers. “I am thinking about the financial impact on our Region.
For 61 persons to be unemployed; to be added to the hundreds who are already unemployed, is a regional disaster, and the government needs to intervene before it escalates. Those persons have their families to finance; they might have children writing CXC; children to feed. People are losing faith, and everyone is panting for breath,” he said.
The dismissal of the employees was prompted after the workers initiated strike action on February 16, protesting the imposition of a one per cent salary increase, among other grievances.
Notwithstanding the fact that Guyana’s Constitution provides for employees a freedom to strike, BCGI had deemed the strike by the employees as an “illegal action”, believing that the company was within its legal right to fire the workers.
The company’s representative said the workers’ contracts did not provide for them to be absent from work, not even in the event of a strike.
At last Friday’s meeting with the workers, Ally assured them, “This government can’t be supportive of anyone who wants to treat our workers anyhow. We will not allow it. There’s no question of our allegiance, because home comes first. ” “We view this matter to be a serious one, and very important for us as a government.
From the onset we are behind you… we are supportive of the workers of this company… don’t feel for any moment that we are against you. We will work with you to ensure everything is restored to its fullest.”
Meanwhile, the GBGWU on Sunday issued a statement calling on the Opposition and all other newly-formed political parties to add their voice to the situation and stand up for the workers.
SILENCE NOT AN OPTION
“Silence is not an option when Guyana’s national interest is under threat,” the statement said, adding: “It is not an option for [the] Opposition Leader or [any] politician. The leaders of these political parties see themselves wanting to lead Guyana… GBGWU, therefore, urges them to demonstrate the quality of leadership they would give to Guyana, not when, or if they are elected, but now, when our national interest is under threat from RUSAL’s violations. [The] Guyanese workers need your involvement and protection now.”
The GBGWU also reminded that they are holding the government to its word, to ensure justice is served to the workers
“We commend the minister, [but] GBGWU is not prepared to only accept the Minister’s call for respect of our laws; we hold her and the government accountable for ensuring the RUSAL management conforms to these without delay, failing which, there must be immediate consequences. The workers are also calling for the improvement in working conditions, better wage negotiations and for the company to respect the labour law of paying double on Sundays.