RUSAL moves to court against bauxite arbitration

Long-awaited arbitration involving RUSAL-owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) slated for next week has been stalled because the company has taken the matter to the high court.

BCGI, owned by Russian Conglomerate Russian Aluminum (RUSAL), has taken Labour Minister Dr. Nankishore Gopaul to court. It averred that  his decision to send the dispute to arbitration was illegal,a move GBGWU President Lincoln Lewis fired back last evening at calling it “RUSAL’s old tricks, abuse and conniving,”

“Bauxite Company Guyana Inc(BCGI) has had to seek recourse to the High Court to ensure that the recent arbitration ordered by the Minister of Labour is in full compliance with the laws of Guyana …” the company said in a  press statement yesterday.”

In the motion filed in the High Court by attorneys Edward A Luckhoo and Andrew Pollard, the company calls on the Minister of Labour to show why his decision to move to arbitration, between RUSAL and the Union, should not be vacated and quashed on the grounds that they were unlawful, contained errors, were subject to impropriety, in breach of the rules of natural justice and were null and void thus have no legal effect. The notice of motion cited several grounds.

These included that Minister Gopaul had no reasonable basis to be satisfied that the continuation of the differences between the two sides would prove “gravely injurious” to the national interest

The motion also contended that the terms of reference laid out by the minister for the appointment of an arbitrator were null and void.

Further, “the terms of reference as set out in the letter of the minister dated 6th March 2012 do not require the arbitrator to enquire into any differences arising between the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union, and therefore the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. cannot be in law a proper party to any arbitration proceedings as there are no terms of references relating to any differences between themselves and thee Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union,” the document stated.

It further contends that the minister did not take into account that there was a pending request for a union recognition poll by the employees of the bauxite company. “The decision to invoke arbitration under the provisions of Section 4 of the Labour Act, Chapter 98:07 of the Laws of Guyana without first holding and concluding the poll as required rendered the exercise of the minister and his decision unfair, unreasonable and unlawful…”

The legal action came on the day that RUSAL had indicated to arbitrator Francis Carryl on March 13th last that they would be available onward to meet for arbitrary talks. It was at the said first meeting that BCGI’s attorney had delivered a letter saying he would be out of the jurisdiction and could not be a part of the arbitration proceedings. Human Resource Manager Elena Gorshkova had said that she could not attend because she would be out of the country.

At the meeting held at the Ministry of Labour boardroom Brickdam, Carryl had decided that the next meeting would be next Tuesday April 3rd at 4pm.

GBGWU’s President Lewis was not happy when he learnt of the move but said it was one he anticipated given the longtime dealings with the company. “I am not at all surprised, after all the dealings we would have had and how we studied RUSAL we knew it was only a matter of time before they try to make a fool of the Guyanese people with something else to stall,” he said.

The GBGWU president said he plans to engage members of parliament and exhaust every possible measure to bring a favourable working environment for his representatives. “We will be in court with the labour minister we have our lawyers and we will not let up on these people who want to impose their laws on us and introduce a new form of colonisation given the working conditions they propose,” he said.

The two sides have been at loggerheads since November 2009.

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