Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir has rejected assertions that the government has demonstrated double standards in its treatment of the retrenched Barama Company Limited workers and the 57 RUSAL workers who were fired over a year ago.
The minister made these remarks while justifying to the National Assembly why he had requested an additional $30,850,000, through the Finance Ministry, to meet “the education stipend to workers who were retrenched at Barama Company Ltd.” Opposition Leader Robert Corbin asked Nadir if he had thought about instituting similar benefits for the dismissed workers of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI)
Nadir while stating that there were financial constraints said that the two disputes were different. He said that in the case of the Barama employees, they were retrenched due to an accident while in the bauxite case the workers were fired after an industrial dispute.
He said that the accident at the Barama site almost caused a national crisis adding that the livelihoods of 281 workers were put into jeopardy. There were doubts about how the Barama boiler accident occurred and who was responsible for it.
Regarding the impasse between RUSAL and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), the Minister said his ministry continues to address the matter. “We have remained engaged with the RUSAL workers,” Nadir said. “The problem we are having here is the union being hesitant, the union not wanting the workers to come in, “the minister said. According to him, “so far of those workers, only four have come to the ministry to file for a case of wrongful dismissal”. He said that the four cases are being dealt with “condignly”. He said too that the RUSAL matter also had the added complication of over 120 workers signing a petition to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TUR&CB) asking for the de-recognition of the GB&GWU. Fifty-seven employees of the BCGI’s Aroaima plant were dismissed after over 300 workers staged a strike for higher wages.
Explaining the tight financial situation, Nadir explained how the $30.8 million will be used. He said that each worker will receive an education grant of $25,000 per month for three months, which will cost the administration $21,075,000. They will also receive a transportation grant of $5,000 per month over the same period which would add up to $4,215,000.
A further $5.5 million, Nadir explained, is going to be used to pay the training institutions. According to Nadir, similar relief was offered to the bauxite workers at BOSAI two years ago when workers had been retrenched there.
The Barama workers were made redundant following damage to a vital water boiler at the company’s East Bank Demerara location on October 4. The workers were laid off on October 15.
Barama, in a statement, said the employees were made redundant after the “negligence on the part of trained and experienced personnel led to the boiler system not being fed with the required water supply and resulted in the overheating of the system. This immediately resulted in the entire factory being shutdown.”
The $30.8 million expenditure was approved when the House passed a bill on Thursday to authorise $6,861,976,200 in supplementary provisions from the Consolidated Fund.