Bauxite company continues to show contempt for the workers

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) takes note of a conscious and proactive workforce employed at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) seeking to have their employer respect their right to enjoy benefits awarded to them by the government through a decision made in 2016 to cease taxing overtime and all premium hours worked.

Bauxite workers fought for and achieved this benefit during the Desmond Hoyte government but it was since taken away by the Bharrat Jagdeo government, even as it was retained in the sugar industry. The fact that the David Granger/Moses Nagamootoo government has agreed to return the benefit to the bauxite workers marks a progressive step to restore equity in treatment for workers in the productive sector.

More than 40 workers have today (27th November 2017) delivered a letter to BCGI management, calling for this benefit to be made payable by 30th November or they would proceed on strike action. Copies of this letter were sent to the media, Ministry of Social Protection, and their union, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU).

GTUC calls on BCGI management to honour government’s decision, and to meet with the workers’ representative. Arriving from the poll held on 3rd October which saw the GB&GWU securing the workers’ confidence by a landslide the union wrote management, outlining a menu of measures, and seeking engagement. GTUC has been advised no response has been had to date.

Government can make investments attractive without having to see the transgressing of citizens/workers’ rights and the violating of the Constitution and Laws of Guyana. GTUC calls on government to recognise the workers’ grievance with this company, of which it has part ownership.

BCGI’s contempt cuts against the grain of law and order, of which government is the custodian.

The fact that Minister Keith Scott wrote management earlier this month advising mechanisms be put in place to return taxes deducted on overtime and all premium hours worked with effect from 1st October 2016 and management continues to ignore this directive sends a strong signal that

BCGI is above government and the laws of our land. Who or what is empowering the BCGI management to feel it can treat workers like this? It seems as though this company has its tentacles on Guyana and what does this say for the Guyanese people?

GTUC calls on the government to honour the Constitution that establishes sovereignty over the nation and its workers and hold BCGI accountable for its deviant industrial relations practices that continue to infringe the laws of the land. There is something troubling about Guyana’s relationship with BCGI that is allowing successive governments to permit the transgressing of the rights of Guyanese labour and the violating of our laws. Guyanese need to take note.

Next month will mark 8 years of BCGI being allowed to flagrantly violate Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act by its refusal to treat with the GB&GWU as required by law. This has been the parent company RUSAL’s behaviour wherever it does business around the world unless the host country government stands up to it.

In light of what Guyanese are witnessing, GTUC calls for the Government of Guyana to ensure 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; organisations and people in power and positions are allowed to break the law and transgress the rights of the workers, which is more dangerous for the well-being of the society.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

General Secretary

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