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RUSAL-BCGI management finally recognises union, to begin talks Friday

RUSAL-BCGI workers at Aroaima.

The management of United Company Russian Aluminium (UC RUSAL)-controlled Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) on Monday decided to recognise the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU), paving the way for the two sides to open negotiations on outstanding grievances.

“The issue of recognition is not on the table. The company has made it clear that this is the recognised union and we have to work in the interest of the workers, in the interest of the company, in the interest of the nation,” GB&GWU General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis told reporters after another round of talks presided over by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour.

Emerging from the conciliation talks with the Ministry of Labour, Lewis announced that the union would Tuesday submit a list of items to RUSAL that it would like to discuss with management on Friday. The company is expected to submit its list to the union.

“We believe that this exercise is what we want where we start the building of trust and confidence in a relationship because it’s necessary that both sides – union and company – work together,” he said.

Lewis said the GB&GWU’s agenda would include the status of the 61 workers, who were dismissed after they went on strike 26 days ago in protest at a one-percent pay increase offer for 2019. “What we are doing now is that we are going to talk about how we are going to get back to normalcy,” said the veteran trade unionist. He said, “The strike continues” until it is settled.

Also to be placed on the union’s list of priorities are future negotiations and the establishment of occupational health and safety measures after a 26-day long struggle with RUSAL. He credited the workers on the ground at Aroaima mines for holding out on the struggle for workers’ rights. “What happened here has been made possible by those guys… It’s an indication of the quality of men and women on the ground and the rebirth of the militancy of the trade union movement,” he said.

RUSAL’s management had refused to recognise the GB&GWU on the basis that its recognition status had emerged out of an illegal process. Further, management had refused to meet with the union because of alleged racial slurs that Lewis had made against RUSAL’s management.

However, the Guyana government had insisted that the union was properly recognised as the bargaining agent for the workers.