After seven months the Minister of Labour still refuses to act

Dear Editor,

With respect to Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir’s comments carried in the article, ‘Nadir defends handling of bauxite row’ (SN, May 1, 2010), the Minister reportedly said, “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.”  Here is the truth:

1.  Recognition is not within the portfolio of Minister Nadir. Recognition is within the portfolio of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board, which is headed by Justice Prem Persaud. The Board is an independent body and does not report to Minister Nadir. For argument’s sake let’s say there are some workers seeking de-recognition, this would not prevent the ministry and employer from dealing with the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU). By law they have to deal with the union until the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board says the union is not longer the bargaining agent for the workers.

2.  Minister Nadir knows that according to Section 23 (1) of the Recognition Act, Chapter  98:07, once a union is recognized the company and ministry have a “compulsory recognition and duty to treat” with the union.  The Minister has himself acknowledged in Kaieteur News (April 25 and April 9) his ministry’s recognition of the GB&GWU as the bargaining unit for workers at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI). The Chief Labour Officer and Secretary to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board, Yoganand Persaud, also told the Guyana Times the same thing (April 8).

3.  The union wrote letters to Minister Nadir on January 13 and April 20 seeking his involvement consistent with his responsibility under the laws (copies of the letter attached). To date the Minister has not replied and this debunks his claim that he is attending to the impasse “in the best way, given all the circumstances.”

Editor, since Minister Nadir refuses to engage the union or conciliate in this matter, all of which are in violation of the laws and his responsibility, we kindly solicit your intervention in requesting of him a) the reason(s) for his refusal to respond to the union’s letters and b) given the fact that he acknowledges the recognition of the union and Section 23 (1) of the Recognition Law mandates “compulsory recognition and duty to treat” with the union why he is refusing to do so.

On an editing note, the number of workers dismissed was 57, not “about 50.”

In a few days this dispute will be entering its seventh month and the minister still refuses to act.  The Minister’s dissembling and prevarication has forced the union to conclude that the bauxite dispute can no longer be classified simply as a labour dispute when the labour laws, international conventions and UN declarations are in favour of bauxite workers and the Minister of Labour as the representative of the government is failing to act. This struggle is no longer simply about dereliction of duty, rights and the rule of law; it is underpinned by an autocratic government bent on destroying the economic base of a people and is driven by racial and political biases. It is aimed at destroying labour and communities seemingly supportive of the opposition parties. Yours faithfully,

Carlton Sinclair
President, Aroaima/Kwakwani sites

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