This is the second Christmas the right to representation has been denied bauxite workers employed at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) and 57 of them have been stripped of the right to work and provide economic sustenance for themselves and families. In November an additional four workers were fired for speaking out against the unhealthy kitchen environment and the use of expired food to prepare their meals. These workers have been denied a total average income of 70 plus million as they still await the intervention of the Ministry of Labour, consistent with its legal responsibility, to bring the company to the negotiation table in order that these matters could be addressed.
On December 1, 2009 BCGI issued a letter to the government and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) that it has, with immediate effect, de-recognised the union. Minister Nadir has repeatedly acknowledged the Ministry of Labour’s recognition of the GB&GWU, consistent with Section 23 of the Trade Union Recognition Act. While GB&GWU recognition is acknowledged by the Ministry of Labour, recently the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board, headed by retired Justice Prem Persaud, took a decision to conduct a poll which will give cover to the illegal act of BCGI. Since then the union has asked the board to provide the information and rationale that has informed its decision for the poll, but the board cannot provide same.
Recently President Jagdeo assured the workers of this country that under his stewardship the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) would not be de-recognised from representing workers in GuySuCo. The state-owned GuySuCo later came out and said its threat of de-recognition was a tactic.
While the GB&GWU condemns any attempt to de-recognise any union in contravention of the Trade Union Recognition Act, the union is encouraged that the threat of de-recognition is now lifted but stands in solidarity with GAWU to ensure that such withdrawal be given in writing lest it be left hanging over their heads as a permanent threat.
While the President said GAWU will not be de-recognsied under his watch, the government has remained silent on the letter of de-recognition from BCGI, a company in which the Guyana Government is one of the two shareholders. His silence could therefore be construed that he supports what BCGI is doing to Guyanese bauxite workers.
On January 2, 2010 Minister Nadir told the nation that “perhaps… we should let this festive season of goodwill take its course and hopefully both parties will exercise more generosity towards each other.” The second festive season is here and the matter is still not settled. This was and will never be a matter of “generosity”; it is a matter of doing what is right by the laws which the Minister continues to fail to adhere to.
GB&GWU has been advised by the ministry of a scheduled meeting on December 29 between itself and BCGI. It is hoped this time the ministry presents itself and it will not stay away like it did at the August meeting it called, when the company and union were present but the Chief Labour Officer, Yoganand Persaud, was not. The absence of the CLO has stalled any movement towards resolution.
As the GB&GWU continues to examine the labour landscape it evident that the government does not want some workers to organize themselves into a collective unit and would go to any length to ensure it does not happen even if it means violating the workers’ rights and breaking the laws. In the meanwhile the union will continue to explore avenues and carry out acts until this matter is settled.
President Aroaima/Kwakwani Branch