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Geology and Mines strike resumes; management deems it illegal

Several staff members of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission outside their headquarters on Brickdam.

Employees of the Guyana Geology and Mines (GGMC) say management’s failure to approve a pay-hike, in keeping with a terms of resumption of work following protest action last month, forced them to  recommence strike action on Tuesday, a move that management deems illegal.

Meanwhile, Guyana Public Service Union  (GPSU) Industrial Relations Officer Jermaine Hermanstine, who led the strike, says the industrial action will continue indefinitely until an additional increase is negotiated and approved.

Several hours after the strike the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission released a statement which said it perceives the strike action “illegal.” In the statement the GGMC accused the Guyana Public Service Union of breaching the standing agreement between the entities for the “Recognition and Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes” which outlines steps to be taken to resolve issues. Deviating from the established protocols, especially when negotiations are currently on-going, GGMC, can be construed as “bad faith.”

Hermanstine says that 80% of the agency’s staff, inclusive of those at the head office as well as those in the field, supported the strike action, and he said that the remainder are expected to join in as strikes continue.

When contacted today, Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud, who is currently out of the jurisdiction, says he is unaware of the reason for the strike. Asked why the management of the Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) failed to honour the terms of resumption he stated that he was not in a position to effectively respond to questions.

Meanwhile, GGMC Deputy Commissioner,  Newell Dennison, declined to comment on any questions relating to the matter. He says he does not want the issue to devolve into a “they said, we said” scenario. Hermanstine said that last year the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) met with GGMC to negotiate an increase in wages and salaries during which a favorable proposal was made. He said though, that the proposal is yet to be approved despite a commitment to do so. This led to strike action just last month which was called off after the union and GGMC’s management struck an agreement.

“It (the proposal) is favorable for the workers, however management did not approve it in a timely manner and the workers had to take industrial action last month.” What occurred is that the GPSU was able to meet with management and come to a compromise

To end last month’s strike, Hermanstine said, “a terms of resumption was signed which indicates that management will pay 8% interim and when we resume work it means that management will have to come to a compromise and negotiate the further payment within a one week time.”

He said that while GGMC’s management paid the 8% within the one week they failed to honour the agreement in the terms of resumption which expired the 31st of December. This, he said, necessitated Tuesday’s  strike action. “Until management decides to honour their commitment is only then we will conclude (strike action),” Hermanstine told Demerara Waves.

In its statement though, GGMC says that it has “honoured the terms and the conditions of the signed Terms of Resumption of Work and has worked assiduously and tirelessly to achieve amicable resolution to the issues.” The statement further said that the Commission will take measures to ensure its work is not “unduly disrupted.”