A strike by workers at the majority Russia-owned Russian Aluminium (RUSAL) has been averted after the company signed an agreement to pay back more than GY$173 million in income taxes that had been deducted from workers’ overtime pay for more than one year, although government had decided that their extra earnings would not have been taxed, a senior union official said.
President of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), Leslie Gonsalves said after more than one year, RUSAL- the major shareholder in Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI)- finally signed an agreement with government and the union, paving the way for the at least 300 workers to get back the income tax that had been deducted from their earnings for more than 40 hours per week.
“Now that they (RUSAL/BCGI) have signed on to it, we are expecting them to pay the workers promptly,” Gonsalves told Demerara Waves Online News. “We are hoping that within a week’s time they will pay it because they would have failed and one year would have passed. Now that is history, they need to pay the people their money”.
Gonsalves said if the company did not sign the agreement, the workers would have “withdrawn their labour”.
He said Junior Minister of Labour, Keith Scott informed him that he has spoken with Finance Minister, Winston Jordan and Commissioner- General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) about facilitating the return of the money to the company so that the workers could be reimbursed.
RUSAL/BCGI continued to deduct the income tax on the overtime earnings dating back to October 1, 2016 because, according to Minister Scott, the company had said that it did not want to legitimize the union.
“They had no right not to give the people their pay. The justification that they used is if they accept, they would be giving tacit recognition of the union,” he said. RUSAL signed the agreement several weeks after GB&GWU won a union recognition poll, solidifying it as the legitimate bargaining agent for the workers.
The Junior Labour Minister said when the overtime is reimburse it is expected that that would be a great boost to the Region 10 economy.
The GB&GWU says after the pay-out the next step is the commencement of negotiations for a new Collective Labour Agreement. Gonsalves says those talks will have to include the alleged wrongful dismissal of 62 workers between 2009 and 2012 after they had agitated during a strike there to press for increased salaries and improved working conditions.