Following a visit to the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) by Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Simona Broomes on Tuesday last, the Labour Department of the Ministry has launched an investigation.
A press release reported that a letter outlining several infractions that need to be immediately addressed will be shortly despatched to the company.
Minister Broomes lead a team to BCGI a RUSAL subsidiary, in Aoraima (Region 10) where a number of violations were observed. Grievances by the workers were numerous, but of primary concern was the fact they were not allowed to be unionised, a provision stipulated in Guyana’s Constitution according to the ministry.
This was explained to management and the ministry believes that the issue will be resolved in the near future.
Of concern to Chief Labour & Occupational Health & Safety Officer Lydia Greene and Consultant Francis Carryl (also members of the team) were the assertions of two employees of having to repay medical bills for injuries – one for burns and the other for a broken arm – suffered on the job. The ministry described it as unconscionable and plans to address the matter with the aim of ceasing the deductions and repaying the workers monies already withdrawn.
The Labour Department also indicated that they will be instituting a charge against the company for failure to report the burning accident during the four day period prescribed by the labour laws.
Another issue which arose was the 3% salary increase for workers set to be enforced in 2016, which management claims was the ceiling set by the government due to inflation. When Minister Broomes denied this and challenged the personnel manager on the issue he contended that the dispute was as a result of miscommunication due to language barriers.
While BCGI indicated that it has installed new management team to focus on the health and safety of the workers, Broomes emphasised that her presence was not an attack on the company, as the administration welcomes foreign investors but not at the expense of workers’ rights.
“As the Minister responsible for labour I am here to hold the balance between employer and employee and this is what I am going to do. I am not going to attempt anything outside of the law” A follow-up inspection will be conducted by the ministry to ensure all the labour breaches indicated are rectified.