Lewis takes government to task over BCGI’s Russian management

General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) says a point has now been reached where “the excesses of the Russian management” in relation to its refusal to recognise and accept the right of the employees of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) to be affiliated to a trade union of their choice, has to be blamed on “the failure of the government to properly insert itself into a matter that has to do with the constitutional right of the citizens of the country.”

Seven years after the management of BCGI severed ties with the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) word emerged earlier this week that the company had sought to press workers to endorse a document expressing their disinterest in being affiliated to the union. Lewis told Stabroek Business that the reported recent action by the company marked “the inevitable continuation of a pattern of harassment of workers and a flagrant disregard for the country and its laws which has been brought about by the failure of the government to assertively remind the management that Guyana is a sovereign country.”

On Tuesday, Lewis issued a statement describing as an “intensification of aggression,” an instruction issued to workers by the management to dispatch communication dictated by the company to

Under duress? BCGI workers at Aroaima
Under duress? BCGI workers at Aroaima

government “stating that they do not want the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union.” Some BCGI workers have not only confirmed that they had been asked to sign such a document but have said that it is not their wish to part company with the union.

With the bauxite industry not having featured prominently in media reporting in recent years on account of protracted challenges in the sector, BCGI has, nonetheless, retained a measure of public prominence primarily on account of what is widely believed to be its poor industrial relations record.

In the statement, Lewis said the BCGI had ignored continuous pleas by its workers to protect “their right to associate with a trade union of their choice and have collective bargaining conducted on their behalf,” prerogatives which he said “are consistent with Article 147 of the Constitution and Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act.” The statement said that right had been violated “for seven years and under the leadership of three administrations.”

In 2012, the High Court ruled that the Government of Guyana re-issue letters of arbitration which had originally been issued in the name of the Russian majority shareholder, RUSAL—in the name of BCGI in order that normal union/management relations can proceed “consistent with Section 4 (1) of the Guyana Labour Act.”

The statement said that in a meeting with Minister in the Ministry of Social Protection Keith Scott earlier this week the union representatives had “communicated our commitment to have the government respect the Laws of Guyana and the court’s directive.”

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