After holding out against their workers since October of last year by continuing the deduction of taxes on overtime and all premium hours worked, the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), a subsidiary of the Russian-owned RUSAL, has finally agreed to comply with the law.
In August last year then Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence had announced that effective 1st October, 2016, workers of BCGI would be exempted from paying taxes on the overtime and premium hours worked.
However, BCGI has been ignoring the ruling and it wasn’t until the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) threatened the company with a strike by workers this week that action was taken.
Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, of the Department of Labour, Ministry of Social Protection, confirmed with Stabroek News yesterday that the company had met with the ministry and had signed an agreement to ensure that the law will be followed and that the workers’ overtime and premium working hours will not be taxed.
In terms of payouts to the workers, Ogle related that the company would’ve already paid the deducted taxes to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). Now, BCGI will have to write the GRA for the workers’ tax refunds.
The signing of the document comes against the backdrop of the GTUC writing to the Ministry of Social Protection and BCGI, informing them that if the monies are not made payable by November 30, the workers would proceed on strike.
According to a letter, from the General Secretary of the GTUC, Lincoln Lewis, published in Tuesday’s edition of SN, more than 40 workers delivered a letter to the management of the company on Monday, calling for their benefit to be made payable by November 30 “or they would proceed on strike action.”
“GTUC calls on BCGI management to honour Government’s decision, and to meet with the workers’ representative. Arising from the poll held on October 3, which saw the GB&GWU securing the workers’ confidence by a landslide, the union wrote the management, outlining a menu of measures, and seeking engagement,” the letter had stated.
According to the General Secretary’s letter, Minister in the Ministry of Social Protection Keith Scott also intervened earlier this month when he wrote the administration of the company, advising them to ensure that mechanisms were put in place to return the deducted taxes on the overtime and premium hours worked, with effect from October 1, 2016.
Over the years, the bauxite company has had an acrimonious relationship with the union and the workers, and has found itself in the spotlight for ignoring the country’s labour laws.
As a result, Lewis charged the Government of Guyana to ensure that any future foreign investment has “ensconced ironclad clauses that would respect workers’ rights and the laws of the land.
“What is happening with BCGI is encouraging lawlessness in our society. Lawlessness and crime are not only at the grassroots level, where this class of people will be held accountable, but when organisations and people in power and positions are allowed to break the law and transgress the rights of the workers, this is more dangerous for the well-being of the society,” Lewis said.