Nadir defends handling of bauxite row

-accuses GAWU of taking irrational stand

Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir has defended his handling of the dispute between the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB& GWU) and the Rusal subsidiary, the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI), dismissing criticism that he has not been acting in the workers’ interest.

In response to a call by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers union (GAWU) for him to “shoulder his responsibilities” in the dispute, Nadir said on Wednesday that the situation is being handled “in the best way, given all the circumstances.” In a statement, he accused GAWU of taking a vocal position, rather than a rational position. “I am astonished that the GAWU would come out with such a statement.

All that the GAWU is doing is parroting the views of the GB&GWU,” he said.

According to Nadir, in exercising his responsibilities in the dispute, he has had to do so with regards to all workers, including those who applied for de-recognition of the union, those who are on the job and are not on strike, those who believe that they have been wrongly dismissed, and those who are in the leadership of the recognised union. “The way forward rests with resolving these contradicting issues, one of which is the matter of the workers who have written to the TUR&CB [Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board] re the de-recognition of the union,” he said, while also noting that the GAWU General Secretary is one of two representatives from the FITUG who sits on the TUR&CB.

In a recent statement, GAWU expressed solidarity with the union, noting that what had started out as the union’s “simple but fundamental demand for increased wages and the reinstatement of certain type of overtime pay” had blossomed “into a prolonged dispute now involving recognition, questionable terminations, union-busting and alleged violations of both local and international labour laws and conventions.” Explaining that it had been hesitant to enter into the union-company impasse for a number of reasons, GAWU said that it felt compelled as “a matter of principle and solidarity” to call on the Minister of Labour “to reconsider his previous and current indifference with respect to the issue.”

According to GAWU, “despite the perception by some that sugar workers are somehow a favoured lot,” this is not the case and it realises that the Labour Minister’s laxity could also affect GAWU representative workers some day.

The impasse between the GB&GWU and the BCGI dates back to last November when workers engaged in industrial action. Subsequently, several of the workers aborted the strike and resumed working with the company. About 50 workers–including some senior members of the union—were later dismissed by the BCGI. Union leaders have since argued that the workers who went back to work were forced to sign letters to say that they wanted the GB&GWU to be derecognised.

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