BCGI-RUSAL strike ends, union-management relationship to be entrenched

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 19:37 by Writer

RUSAL-BCGI workers meeting before the arrival of a government team.

A strike at Russian Aluminium (RUSAL)-controlled Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) ended on Tuesday with a decision to reinstate all 61 workers, and an assurance that the union’s role in representing all workers is fully entrenched.

The 61 workers were dismissed last month after going on strike to protest a one-percent increase in salaries. Another 30 or more workers had been laid off.

However, those who were on strike would not be paid for the lost man-hours. The Terms of Resumption (ToR) clearly state, among other things, “no compensation for time not worked during the dispute.”

The ToR marking the end of a more-than-one-month long strike at RUSAL’s mining operations at Aroaima, also provide for the reintroduction of union dues from the workers’ salaries and the negotiation of a new collective labour agreement between the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) and RUSAL 14 days after the workers resume duty. But in the interim, the avoidance and settlement of disputes would be done through the existing collective labour agreement.

The ToR also provides for no victimisation or change of conditions for the reinstated workers and removing the Berbice River blockade. The workers had blocked the river with rope, oil drums and other objects during the dispute to prevent bauxite-laden barges from leaving the mines for a transshipment station at the mouth of the Berbice River for loading to large ocean-going vessels.

RUSAL-BCGI workers at Aroaima.

“Both parties have further agreed to recognise the sovereignty, Constitution and Laws of Guyana and neither shall act in contravention thereof; promised to uphold the spirit and goodwill to which the ToR was negotiated and signed and will do nothing to circumvent same,” they said.

The union said the workers’ struggle, which began on 22nd November 2009, has ended after approximately nine years later.

The GB&GWU said in the history of independent Guyana this is the longest industrial conflict on record occurring under the Bharrat Jagdeo regime, and continuing under the Donald Ramotar regime, only to be resolved finally under the Coalition Government.

“Looking back this is a struggle that never should have been. It is a struggle that GB&GWU was bound to come out successful, regardless of (how) long it went, because the laws were on our side.

It is unfortunate however in spite of the Constitution and laws that protect workers that successive PPP governments ignored the pleas and struggles of GB&GWU to hold BCGI accountable and to protect those who it was bound by Constitution to represent. And to imagine that could have occurred under a government headed by a party founded by working class advocate Dr. Cheddi Jagan is an indictment of his legacy,” the union said.

The GB&GWU thanked the Ministry of Social Protection, more particularly Minister Amna Ally who “brought a seriousness and intolerance to the violation of the Laws of Guyana and Guyanese workers”. Credit was also given to local and international media and those on social media and Guyanese “who took on this fight personally. “The workers and families of BCGI and the communities around, thank you for standing up for your rights and standing for justice.”

Also thanked were the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana, Guyana Public Service Union and International Trade Union Federation.