Bauxite union representatives Leslie Gonsalves and Carlton Sinclair have moved to have a suit against them brought by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) struck out, saying that there are no grounds for it.
Gonsalves and Sinclair, the General Secretary and Branch President, respectively of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), on Thursday filed an application in the High Court, seeking to have the BCGI proceedings against them stayed.
Last July, the BCGI had filed a suit against Gonsalves and Sinclair, seeking damages for the strike action called by workers. The BCGI said the two “conspired” and “induc-ed” the workers to strike and engage in activities that resulted in work stoppages and shortfalls in the production of bauxite.
In an application filed on their behalf by attorney Basil Williams, Gonsalves and Sinclair are seeking an order striking out the endorsement of claim and the statement of claim, saying they disclose no reasonable cause of action within the meaning of order 17 Rule 32 of the Rules of the High Court Chapter 3:02. Additionally, they seek an order striking out the action on the ground that the BCGI has no locus standi.
In the affidavit in support of the application, Gonsalves noted that a registered trade union and its members and/or officers have immunity from actions in tort, by virtue of the provisions of S.7 (1) of the Trade Unions Act. “Thus as officers of the GB&GWU, the instant action, being a claim for damages for various torts allegedly committed by us, is not sustainable before our Courts,” Gonsalves said. He also noted that on the advice of his attorney he believed that conspiracy by two or more persons to do an act in contemplation or furtherance of a trade union dispute is not actionable in court, and he denied any involvement in a conspiracy. “… [B]ut rather [we] were acting as the workers union representatives whilst the workers were striking at Aroaima,” he added.
Gonsalves said the BCGI’s claim that the union representatives “induced their employees to breach their contracts of service with them” and “interfered with Plaintiff Company’s trade or business” is also not actionable in the courts, by virtue of the Trade Union Act. He added that the bauxite workers at Aroaima went on strike to protest the poor occupational, health and safety conditions under which some drivers were forced to work.
According to Gonsalves, the BCGI and the GB&GWU entered into a Collective Labour Agreement to run from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010. Further, he said pursuant to the first clause of the Agreement, the BCGI recognised the GB&GWU as the exclusive bargaining agent for all the permanent non-management employees, excluding security guards.