Article 46(2) of the Collective Labour Agreement acknowledges that there will be strikes

Dear Editor,

The members of the Aroaima/Kwakwani Branch of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) want an end to the violations and tensions at the sites. It has been several weeks since the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc (BCGI) issued notice to the GB&GWU in the presence of the Ministry of Labour that it had “terminated with immediate effect” the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) and was moving to have the union “de-recognised.”

The Labour Act Chapter 98:01, “Collective agreement enforceable,” Section 30 (1) expressly states that a CLA is legal and binding between the two parties unless stated otherwise in the Agreement. The BCGI/GB&GWU CLA has no expression to the contrary. This means that neither of the parties can take a decision to terminate the agreement “with immediate effect,” regardless of what either may perceive to be breach(es) by the other.

The Aroaima/Kwakwani workers are understandably concerned about the credibility and intent of any application of “Poll for continued certification” as being applied by BCGI for the following reasons:

* The Trade Union Recognition Act, Chapter 98:07, “Poll for continued certification,” Section 31 speaks specifically of workers making an application to the Trade Union Recognition Board.

* It was BCGI via a letter dated December 1, 2009 which stated its intention to move to de-recognise the union. Subsequently the company had workers sign a petition it prepared which is being submitted to the Trade Union Recognition Board.

BCGI has now stopped the check-off of union dues which was agreed upon between BCGI and the workers under the CLA.

The company has been accusing workers of violating the CLA when they were on strike. It conveniently refers to Article 46 (1) of the CLA which says there will be no strike, lock-out or any form of work stoppage. But it doesn’t mention Article 46 (2) which says in the event of a strike, lockout or any form of work stoppage the parties shall meet urgently and expeditiously to bring the situation back to normalcy. Article 46 (2) in itself is an acceptance by the company and union that there will be strikes, lockouts and other work stoppages, and in the event they occur the company and union will move expeditiously to have the situation returned to normalcy.

Yours faithfully,
Carlton Sinclair
GB&GWU Branch President
Aroaima/Kwakwani Operations

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