While they anticipate as much as a 25% increase in salary for 2016, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) workers yesterday welcomed an announcement by government of a one-off six weeks’ payout for last year.
“Both the junior [staff] and management have agreed to this one-off payout, which is really a six weeks’ payout, based on the January 1, 2015 salaries,” Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman announced yesterday to thunderous applause and screams from GGMC employees.
Trotman was at the time delivering remarks at the 37th anniversary celebrations of the mining agency, which were held at the Parc Rayne Banquette Hall, at Rahaman’s Park, on the East Bank of Demerara, where he explained that he received the news of the agreement just a few minutes before his arrival.
“The Government of Guyana will continue to work with the GGMC, its management, staff and Board of Directors to ensure that the efficiency and integrity, the pillars of sustaining the mining industry, are in place and are respected and upheld so that the well-being of all stakeholders is observed and enhanced,” he declared.
“I am pleased at this stage, in keeping with that pledge, to make an announcement, based on a letter I received five minutes before coming here. It’s a letter signed and sent by the GPSU [Guyana Public Service Union] informing your Commissioner of the fact that the offer made by the GGMC for resolution of all matters has been accepted by the GPSU. Congratulations!” he added.
For employee Lenrick Sam and many others who did not want to be named, the payout was welcomed but the results of negotiations for 2016 is eagerly awaited. “We welcome the six weeks for 2015, yes, and are indeed happy while we await to see what will happen next year,” Sam, who has been employed with GGMC for over six years, told Stabroek News.
“Well, we anticipate 25% for this year and the minister said he will try to help us and we believe in him, so let’s wait and see,” he further said.
Trotman also explained to workers that while they celebrate the agency’s 37 years, it is also important to reflect on the past and to analyse its performance so holistic developmental planning can be done.
“The nation has observed that the GGMC continues to perform in the face of challenges and that it has been quite responsive to the myriad issues that confront it on a daily basis. We have observed that security of tenure/tenure conflicts are typical frustrations. And, we have heard first-hand the broad complaints about the unbecoming behaviour of a few GGMC officers in the field and elsewhere. Likewise, we have received a litany of complaints from the miners about the inadequacy of technical and financial support and availability of mining lands for miners, particularly at the small scale level. There are still a number of challenges hampering the sector that must be fixed forthwith to realise its true potential. This includes the reviewing of the management and organisational structure of the Commission itself,” he said.
“At this juncture, it is appropriate to note that in every endeavour or area of independent employment, a certain significant level of responsibility has to be placed on the proprietor to be knowledgeable, adaptable, qualified, etcetera, especially when huge sums of monies are involved. The… mining industry is no different. The mining community has to do a little more to regulate itself, in fact aspects of the Act and Regulations contemplate that to be the case,” he added.
Trotman laid out a list of priorities that government hopes to address at the policy level for the continued improvement of GGMC as an organisation while simultaneously addressing issues that are pertinent to miners, stakeholders, and the mining and petroleum sectors.
These include enhancing “the somewhat dull and misguided image of the mining sector in general, and of the GGMC in particular,” by promoting greater levels of research, surveys, efficiency, transparency, order and accountability and creating opportunities for the further development of the human resources of the organisation, through investment in training at all levels and the fashioning of a succession plan.
Additionally, government plans to reorient the Guyana Mining School & Training Centre to urgently equip it to become an institution of excellence, capable of training and equipping staff and stakeholders to enter and function in the new world of petroleum exploration and mining.
Further, Trotman pointed out that more focus will be on bauxite production and other minerals that are seen as less attractive, so as to maximise their potential earning power. At the same time, he said it was recognised that land reclamation and environmental security are as important to mining as removing the mineral itself.
Trotman said too that in relation to miners, government will be enhancing the promotion of Occupational Health and Safety in mining and he lamented that there are too many deaths and accidents being recorded in the industry.
He said government would also make available higher yielding lands for all categories of miners, promote higher standards in mining technologies to improve recovery and also improve better monitoring and compliance in accordance with the Mining Act and Regulations. Technical support and assistance to the industry will be amped up as government pledged to continue to invest in geological surveys, he added.
Meanwhile, when Chairman of GGMC Board Stanley Ming addressed the over 300 employees in attendance, he told them to expect an agreement soon for the allocation of lands and the building of a new office.
“With regards to the amenities for the GGMC, the space, we are working assiduously at that. In the very near future, you will have a lot more space and we are working on a project here. We will more than likely, within a year’s time or less, acquire a significant portion of land, where we can build a new GGMC to house everything that we need and staff,” he said.
“That is one thing I promise you, before I demit office at the end of my term, I will ensure …that project will come on stream, even though I might not be there for when it is completed,” he added.
For his part, Commissioner of the GGMC Newell Dennison boasted of the contributions made to the country’s economy by the agency and where in most cases its deliverables have surpassed budget predications. “We are meeting our targets in terms of broad indicators,” Dennison said as his staff applauded.
He spoke to the staff currently on payroll at the ministry and referenced how they should try to be like a cricket team, aiming for the win in the long haul, albeit natural hiccups. “Please put on your white clothes. It is like cricket…pad up and be prepared for a long innings,” he said.