Demerara Timbers workers protest for wage increases

Workers of Demerara Timbers Limited (DTL), located at Mabura Hill, Region 10, yesterday staged a protest outside the company’s head office in Georgetown to press for salary increases they have been expecting since last year.

“Management eye-pass workers,” “Conclude 2015 negotiations now,” “DTL must engage in good faith bargaining,” and “End the foot dragging,” were among the messages on the placards carried by the workers during the protest, in which they were joined by representatives of their union, the Guyana Agricul-tural and General Workers Union (GAWU).

The workers said they were frustrated over the low wages that they earn and lamented that since last year they did not get an increase.

Workers of Demerara Timbers Limited protesting for wage increases in front of the company’s Georgetown office yesterday
Workers of Demerara Timbers Limited protesting for wage increases in front of the company’s Georgetown office yesterday

They accused the company of “punishing poor people,” while highlighting the fact that they had families to look after.

James Fraser, a welder/ fabricator, said since the new DTL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Martin Tim arrived in Guyana, he never had any dialogue with them. They said he never showed up for any meetings at the Region 10 location.

Field Secretary Ricky Rambeer told Stabroek News that they had negotiated for an increase in 2015.

Rambeer accused Tim of disrespecting Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection Keith Scott by not attending meetings and by not sending any representatives.

He said the workers left Mabura at 3 am for Georgetown just to have their “concerns heard” and with the hope that some positive changes would be made. “Workers are fighting for an increase because they are being underpaid… Martin Tim disrespect these people. He has no respect for these workers at Mabura,” he added.

Walter Downes, a tractor operator, said he has worked with the company for 19 years and earns a small salary.

He was disappointed that he did not get any increase for last year and said this year is coming to an end and no one is telling the workers anything.

Cecilene Thomas, an electrician, said she joined her colleagues to protest because “they [DTL] are not cooperating with us. They negotiated with us in 2015 but they did not give us anything….

“They just gave us $5,000 [bonus] last year and told us that this year they would start negotiations but up to now nothing and we are waiting to hear from them.”

Malcolm Smith, a plumber for 20 years with the company, spoke out about the salary issue but also had another complaint.  He said the company has a “workable sawmill and Guyanese people are getting laid off because they are not working the mill. They are employing contractors to work another mill.”

According to him, “The mill was in operation for over 30 years; this was the biggest mill in Guyana. They done damage one side [and] the next side they don’t want to repair…”

He said too that the company was giving the workers “labour work to do and that is something we don’t like….”

In January this year, the company had said it had corrected a defect at its sawmill and would soon resume operations and re-engage the 45 workers it was forced to temporarily layoff.

Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman had visited the location with Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes after learning of the plight of the workers.

The laying off of the workers followed a December 10, 2015 inspection of its location by a team led by Broomes where it was found that the company was in breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

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