The Russian Aluminium (RUSAL)-controlled Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) on Friday denied breaching the country’s labour laws by laying off 286 workers without notice, saying that it is ready to recall the workers when they lift the blockade of the Upper Berbice River.
“Our main message to the ministry and to the authorities is that the blockade is an unlawful action according to the laws of Guyana,” says RUSAL’s Vladimir Permyakov whose company delegation informed the Ministry of Social Protection’s Industrial Relations Consultant, Francis Carryl.
News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News was told that the Department of Labour officials are likely to summon representatives of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) next week.
142 workers had been laid off one week ago on the basis that the company did not receive any fuel tax concession. On Thursday, RUSAL sent home an additional 146 employees because the workers continued to block the river over the dismissal of the first batch.
Permyakov rejected claims by the GB&GWU and the Ministry of Social Protection that the Termination and Severance Pay Act was violated because no notice was given for laying off the workers, based on legal advice. “We have written assessments of professionals of labour laws and Guyana laws…Layoff is not terminating. Our experts and our lawyers say everything was done correctly.”
On the issue of a pay dispute, Permyakov said management could not negotiate with a “gun to your head” and as regards to the alleged electrical shock of two workers, he said he is awaiting the final report from the Occupational Safety and Health Inspector of the Ministry of Social Protection to prove whether the incident had occurred.
The RUSAL-BCGI official stressed that bauxite transshipment was impossible and the removal of the barrier is a non-negotiable for the workers to be recalled. “It’s important, it’s a first condition to recall all laid off employees. We want to recall all of them back but with each day, they are losing it’s abnormal,” Permyakov said shortly after meeting with labour department’s officials.
RUSAL-BCGI says with the blockage of Upper Berbice River and the movement of bauxite to its transshipment station at the mouth of the waterway, all ships have been cancelled and the company paid demurrage.
Permyakov said RUSAL-BCGI was ready to recall the first batch of 142 laid off workers last week Wednesday but the river was still blocked “unlawfully.”
The GB&GWU wants the Chief Labour Officer to declare a deadlock and send the dispute to arbitration. Junior Minister of Social Protection, Keith Scott has not ruled out doing so if these rounds of talks fail to resolve the issues.