Bauxite union to seek conciliation over workers fired in unfit meals issue

The bauxite union representing the five Rusal employees recently fired after the fallout over poor meals at the company’s Aroaima work site will be applying to the Labour Ministry for conciliation, after the company failed to respond to the union’s request for a meeting.

President of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) Leslie Gonsalves said the union had written to the company requesting “a third stage”, but a response was never received.  A third stage, Gonsalves explained, would involve representatives from the company and union meeting to solve the dispute at a bi-lateral level.  Conciliation would involve the ministry facilitating meetings between the union and the company. The five employees of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) were dismissed on November 12, four days after the company’s management investigated complaints by more than 50 workers about the state of the kitchen and the poor quality of meals prepared and found them to be legitimate.    When the kitchen was scrutinized by a team comprising company executives and employees on Monday, November, 8 it was discovered to be roach-infested and to have contained spoilt and expired food items. The workers who were dismissed were accused by the company’s management of encouraging the workers not to work, despite the assurance given by management that their concerns about the state of the kitchen would be addressed. However, the dismissed workers are claiming that they were discriminated against because of their affiliation with the GB&GWU.

This is the latest of a series of industrial disputes involving the BCGI. This most recent dispute comes a year after the company fired 57 workers after union members engaged in strike action over increased wages.  The company and the union have been in conciliation talks for over a year with Chief Labour Officer Yoganand Persaud. The BCGI had indicated its intention to have the GB&GWU derecognized as the official bargaining unit for its employees.

More recently the GB&GWU had applied to the Labour Ministry for arbitration with Oldendorff Carriers Guyana Inc after conciliation talks between the union and the company collapsed. Oldendorff Carriers Guyana Inc is the company which does the transshipment of bauxite for BCGI/Rusal at Aroaima, Berbice River.

Meanwhile, Gonsalves told Stabroek News that workers at Aroaima have said that there has been some improvement in the quality of meals being provided. He said more improvements though are necessary.

Gonsalves said too that although the Labour Ministry had promised to send a team to investigate the condition of the kitchen, this has not been done to date.

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