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Labour summons RUSAL-BCGI to key meeting over layoff of 288 workers

Junior Minister of Social Protection responsible for labour, Keith Scott

The Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour Thursday afternoon summoned the management of Russian Aluminium (RUSAL)-controlled Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) to a meeting on Friday to discuss the layoff of a total of 288 workers within the past week without the legally-required notice.

Junior Minister of Social Protection Keith Scott, insisting that BCGI has “not properly notified us” and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), said the company’s management has been invited by Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle to “have a further thrashing out of the issue.”

Scott said if Friday’s meeting with the company and another with the union yield no resolution, the Chief Labour Officer would declare a deadlock and refer the dispute to arbitration. “When we call them and if we cannot get anywhere further in our negotiations, we don’t have a problem declaring a deadlock,” he said. The Junior Minister of Social Protection said depending on the arbitration outcome, the workers could be compensated.

With 142 workers having been sent home one week ago on the basis that the company did not receive tax concessions on fuel and 146 from Thursday because the workers continue to block the river over the dismissal of the first batch, Scott suggested that the company has a hidden motive. “They sending off more workers, to me, smacks a little bit beyond industrial relations but we are calling to find out what is the status quo,” he told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News.

Earlier Thursday, GB&GWU General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis told a news conference that the union wants a deadlock declared on the dispute and the issue referred to arbitration, the Labour Department to facilitate the mutually agreed appointment of the arbitrator, agreed terms of resumption, reinstatement of all workers without loss of pay, and compensation for two workers who were electrically-shocked. Lewis said since last year August, the union has been calling for an exhaustion of the grievance procedure to pave the way for arbitration.

The Minister said he would not be opposed to the company giving the union an assurance that the workers would be rehired if the river is cleared.

Vice President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Coretta McDonald said representatives of the trade union movement would be meeting with workers on Friday.

Lewis refused to share some blame for the escalation of the crisis by siding with the workers in blocking the Upper Berbice River, and so preventing the movement of bauxite to the transshipment station at the mouth of the Berbice River for loading to international cargo ships.